My normal, everyday, "it's all good" attitude is going to be put on hold for awhile while I jump on my "What the hell happened in Philly?" soapbox.
Setlists are good indicators as to what was going on with any given night. The way songs flow off one another, whether there be a pause or segue, certainly can lead one to believe it may not be the greatest of shows. This show was no exception. A less than average setlist, and an absolutely horrible musical showing by four guys I hold to a very high standard, one that even I can digest an average show and say I had a great time.
There was absolutely near nothing going on this time in Philly. They didn't even try to take “Simple” tune anywhere. “Taste” was one of the worst three versions I have ever heard. Trey could not save this tune to save his life on this night. “Makisupa” -> “Buffalo Bill” was, pure and simple, a self indulgent non-musical Phish moment. They had absolutely no interest in getting anything musical out of these two tunes. You have to understand, I love Tom, as much as anyone. But it's not necessary for him to come out on stage for this. It completely took from the entire musical experience. Trey was more focused on his Tom spiel than he was on playing the damn tunes. It was the tenth “Buffalo Bill” ever (my second), and they use it as a vehicle for some hokey story about Tom writing this tune in 1969. Honestly, who cares? Actually... I care, I just don't want to hear about it in the middle of a Holiday Run show at the Philly Spectrum that I just drove 1000 miles for. Tell me about it in the next book!
One thing that I came to realize after being force-fed this ridiculous attempt at entertainment was, at least Robert Hunter was wise enough for thirty years not to get into the way of the fans’ time with Jerry on stage. He knew that even though he wrote the tunes, the fans were there to hear Jerry sing the tunes, not Robert Hunter. I go to Phish shows to hear Trey sing Buffalo Bill, not Tom Marshall. I don't care when he wrote the song, I just want Trey to sing it. Tom was so badly off key I just had to stand there and shake my head.
I thought that “Bowie” would be the point where they were going to attempt to save the show, but then I realized it was such a bad night, even the “Bowie” was terrible. Who would have ever thought a “Bowie” could be bad? I had yet to hear a bad “Bowie” until this night in Philly. I won't go into details, just try to make it through this; you won't listen to it twice, I guarantee it.
Then they threw in the towel. They paused after a terrible “Bowie” and Trey walked over to Page, then Fish, then Mike, and I actually thought they were talking about a way to salvage this whole thing, but they came back with “Strange Design”. I think Trey must have said something like, "Guys, I'm having a real bad time up here, it's just not happening, let's wrap this up with ‘Strange Design’ and ‘Character Zero’". During “Zero”, I just stood there almost with a tear in my eye.
I am not in any way a spoiled Phish fan. That is not what this review is about. I can take an off night, or an average show, but this was plain pathetic.
Trey needs to take his head out of Dave Matthews’ ass and start thinking about Phish, the most important thing in any of their lives. If you take your eyes off anything that is anything in your life, whether it's your family, your career, your hobbies, or any of your passions, you will most certainly lose your edge, or lose focus when you go back to it.
I am very concerned that these guys are far so wrapped up in the umpteenth solo project that they sometimes forget how to be Phish. I would almost bet Trey has been working a lot harder on preparing for the new Dave Matthews rock star guitar gig than he has about what puts him in the lifestyle he has become accustomed to.
Lastly, I absolutely love “Friday”. And I don't even mind it as an encore. I was under the pavilion having a religious moment during that tune this past summer at Deer Creek. I have thoroughly enjoyed most everything from 2003 up until this point. 2003 has been an excellent comeback year, I can go on and on about what I love about 2003. But this Philly show was a very bad experience.
And since I'm on a roll, will someone tell me if they can find a worse segue than the “AC/DC Bag”->”First Tube” from Nassau?
Sorry for all the negativity, I just love these guys way too much to let them off the hook on this one. We deserve better. We're way too good to these guys.