Mike's Song and Tweezer both contained BEK teases, with the ones in Tweezer taking place well before the segue into BEK. Fans of stage banter will want to seek out the second set for Trey’s humorous response to the crowd’s Destiny Unbound chant before Halley’s. The "Marco Esquandolas" lyric in Antelope was changed to "Michael Esquandolas." This show was released as part of the Hampton/Winston-Salem '97 box set.
For many fans this show was the Big Deal of the tour, and its reputation hasn't diminished over time, though other shows (11/23, 11/29, 12/6) now compete for the title. The setlist is ridiculous, of course - really, a Mike's Groove/Hood combo in Set One?! - but the Halley's Comet jam marks a turning point for the band, the moment (actually the 24-minute rock song) when the evolving 'space jams' of fall (cf. 11/17 II), the empathetic melodic playing of summer (check out the Went Disease and Gin), and the band's yearlong experiment in nasty minimalist funk (cf. every Ghost of 1997) seemed to crash together into a new hybrid form. Space is a chaotic funk function here, and time is fragmentary; the constant crosstalk dissolves into pure feeling and every technical tool seems to be instantly available to all four players.
And that's just the second set *opener*. The Tweezer > BEK transition brings some of the most unapologetically pornographic cow-funk of a year not exactly short on that sort of thing, and while the screaming climax of BEK would have dissolved most bands into a puddle, at that point we've still got fine versions of Piper and Antelope to come. The most incredible thing about this show is that, having hit this creative/empathetic peak, the band somehow managed to stay there for a few weeks, cranking out a run of shows with no rival in their catalogue. In fact this second set probably isn't even the best of the tour (let's give the nod to 12/6/97 II), though 11/22 and 11/17 are probably the sharpest turns on the winding road from the Went to the Island Tour.
Phish archivist Kevin Shapiro included a tasty SBD of the Halley's jam on the 12/20/07 Archives show, and if you listen closely you can hear Trey call out to Mike as the jam kicks off: 'Hey Mike, just stay in F!' The minimalist approach liberates the band - you can almost hear their musical support structures fall away as the song starts growing, morphing, involuting, then expanding.
What remains is pure communication.
It's hard to say whether this is a 'rock and roll' show, in the end. The name doesn't really matter. This is creative improvised music of the highest order, some of the most dramatic, delicate, empathetic, nuanced, unabashedly emotional (and intellectual) music to emerge from the last few years of a pretty screwy millennium. Fans love playing the 'Best Show Ever?' game; there's no right choice but the exercise itself is pleasurable and even productive. 11/22/97 is a better answer to that question than most.
Okay, fine - if you wanted to draw up a model Phish show, the one to hold up against every other show before or since, what would you go with? Jamming, of course - w00ks and n00bs like myself and long-timers are all united in our love of kickass jams. Setlist flow, certainly - the great shows tend to have two incredible sets, in terms of song selection and placement. Venue choice, perhaps - we all have our favorite shows that take place in an out of the way venue (most people's is the DSOTM show; mine's probably Chula Vista '99), but I feel like a show in one of the hallowed arenas of Phish past, present, and future, your Hampton Coliseums and UIC Pavilions and Deer Creeks and Gorges of the world, tend to have a little extra cache, not least of which because Phish tend to give them that little extra cache themselves. And, of course, sheer musical quality - not just the jams, but even the songs we consider bathroom breaks or sops to the casual fans, imbued with a little extra something that separates the great shows from the many, many other shows that don't carry the same reputations. You can write up the greatest setlist in the world, but if you're not on your game, it doesn't matter one little bit.
Well, under that set of (admittedly incomplete) criteria, does any other Great Show hit as many of those points as hard as 11/22/97 does? You can't get any more hallowed and beloved a venue as the Mothership - after all, Phish has made not one, but *two* separate "returns" in this very arena. The setlist is something to behold - two sets that could very easily be second sets, practically screaming "we're going to jam all night and you are going to like it" to us lucky ducks. Those jams? Absolutely top-notch - the Halley's Comet we all know about, but the Mike's Groove, Tweezer, and Antelope are all great as well, and even the Frankenstein > Izabella combo is of higher quality than normal (insert plea for Phish to bring Izabella back here). And the playing all throughout...hell, it's Fall '97, that should tell you everything you need to know.
NYE '95, Big Cypress, Red Rocks '94, Worcester '93...the Great Shows all have their arguments to sit on the throne, and all of them are valid. Me? I'm casting my lot with 11/22/97, the once and future King.
They open with the first Mike's opener in the USA for the first time since the 1990. With 3 huge crowd eruptions from the crowd it kicks off the show with a BANG!! As soon as they drop into the jam they funk it up like no other. After they get spacey for a few minutes they segue seamlessly into Hydrogen then into Weekapaug for a standard Mike's Groove opener. After Trey tears Weekapaug apart it gets into the MOST INCREDIBLE groove, shit gets real. They stop on a dime then bring Weekapaug back full force. After about a minute and a half of and the crowd going into a clapping frenzy the opening drum riff for Hood rings out and we're off for an 18 minute ride. This Hood stays pretty quite for like 4 minutes then takes off. After the Hood there isn't much just the standard short '97 songs.
The second set opens with some humorous banter > HUGE Halley's. After the funk and rock Hampton for 10 minutes they drop into some space. Eventually the jamming quiets down and the Tweezer riff starts up. I like to think of this Tweezer as a continuation of the Mike's funk. very similar groove, perhaps the funkiest Tweezer ever and one of my favorites. Tweezer segues into BEK and she does her thing. Piper quietly starts and builds for a few minutes and doesn't have a jam attached, but it's full of energy just like the rest of the show. Antelope is up next and blows the roof of the coliseum. When Trey plays that heavy chord he turned it up to 11 and everyone knew what was about to happen. Trey rips this Antelope apart and right at the end plays one of the most high pitched notes, it sounds like a blood curdling scream. After such a ripping show only one encore would be appropriate.
Bouncing > Reprise. Ain't nothing can cap off a show like that better.
My view from the first row, thanks to arduous waiting all night, was excellent! Discussing what a possible opener might be, trying to endure the long wait for first row, we all chuckled at my sister's vote: "Mike's Song". "Wouldn't that be funny," we all thought.
Well, not only was it funny, it was incredible. Trey started it out much slower than most, giving it a funkier feel. After the lyrics, they started the normal jam, but it was not as funky as the typical Summer `97 "Mike's" had been. Mike, however, was solidly laying down the groove throughout. There was never any Type III jamming, if my memory serves me correctly, but there was a lot of Type II exploratory jamming. A spacey jam segued very nicely into "H2", with Trey starting with the two modulating notes that Mike normally plays. "Hydrogen" was standard, but Trey and Page were really playing off each other's notes, while facing each other.
Then came "Weekapaug". It was powerful throughout, fast and loud, with solid Type I jamming. Then they stopped all together on Trey's count. Phish has gotten really good at this in my opinion. We all thought the song was over. But then out of nowhere, the band came roaring back, much funkier than before, and Trey went off, ripping a jaw-dropping, show-stopping solo. Then, they ended. Whew! The pause was very much like the pause in "Ghost", and the return to "Weekapaug" was really funky, in a "Weekapaug"ian kind of way. Needless to say, this was the best show-opener that I've ever seen.
After some banter on what to play, Fish started "Hood". I was astounded by this first set, and they had only played three songs. The composed part of "Hood" was normal, played with no flubs. I must say that I hate how everybody yells "Hood!" these days after the band sings "Harry!" I really wish that had never been started. Anyway, the jam started out beautifully. Fishman kept with the light, spacey feel, as is common with the start of most "Hood" jams, by riding on his rivet cymbal. The lights complimented perfectly with the music; we were all just floating through space. I don't remember the jam too well after that, but it seemed standard (which means beautiful, melodious jamming) and again Page and Trey really seemed to be working together nicely. They didn't end on one solid note though, which I guess is common these days, but I must say, I really like when they slam the last chord and end it abruptly, like the one on A Live One.
"Train Song" followed this incredible start. It mellowed the crowd out a lot, which might have prompted them to play "Billy Breathes". Throughout "Billy", I watched Mike and everyone else basically struggle with the changes, almost as if they had forgotten them. After this, Trey yelled to Fishman, "Frankenstein!" and in they went to the hard-driving Edgar Winter cover. This "Frankenstein" was really funky. That's right, funky! Trey accomplished this by using more staccato notes. Then they ripped into "Izabella". I'd never heard this live, but I couldn't really get into it that much. I was probably still reeling from the first part of the set.
Set break: Now began my quest for "Destiny". The night before the show, I printed up about thirty copies of "Destiny Unbound"'s first lines, along with an optional chorus. The caption under the header "Destiny Unbound" read: "A pathetic attempt to get Phish to play a song they'll never play again." Anyway, with the help of my new friend Nate (the security guard), I passed out the flyers down the first row. Screaming, trying to let everyone hear, I led everyone in a few practices of the lines, just to warm our voices up. By the way, thank you to all the eager participants (especially my "other side of first row spokesman") who helped carry out my project. I had always wanted to see what I could do with this, and it turned out really well, I thought.
So, at the beginning of the second set, after the crowd died down, all of us (I think a lot more joined in for the real thing) started chanting the lines, at different times, mind you. It was quite loud. My friend, who was sitting well above Page, said he could easily hear it. We got really astonished looks from Page, Trey, and Jon (not Mike of course), and Trey went over and said a few words to Page. Both were laughing in a "caught off guard" sort of way. Then Trey said something to the effect of, "What is that cannibalistic chant? It sounds like, Rah, ror rah oh ror rah" in his best monster voice. Then he said, "What, has human sacrifice become part of the show? Come on then, bring it up here!" Then he started stabbing downward with his guitar as if stabbing the human sacrifice. The band members were all really getting a kick out of this, but we didn't really get anything out of Mike. As good as this attempt was, Mike started singing "Halley's", seemingly unamused by our shenanigans.
I was really psyched when he started up "Halley's" though, because I really enjoyed the one at the Went. My hopes that they would jam this one out were answered tenfold. After the lyrics, Trey yelled to Mike, "Stay in F!" And thus, we entered "porno-funk" land. It did not, however, start out as funky as other songs have this past Summer Tour. It was heavy, groove-oriented Type II jamming with strong hints of Type III. Trey was ecstatic, loving every note that was being released from the stage. His movements throughout the whole show really seemed to be drug- or alcohol-induced, although more likely, musically induced. He appeared to love the jam, and slowly it evolved, although keeping the groove throughout. Little by little, it developed into a more free-flowing, melodious jam. Fishman started laying down a much slower, more flowing beat with a lot of rim shots and cymbal work and the rest followed suit. This part of the jam, definitely twenty-plus minutes, reminded me so much of the "Mike's" from 11/21/95 Winston-Salem, the slow part with Trey's beautiful melody. If you haven't heard this jam, you really need to check it out. This "Halley's" jam was really good. It fused together the Type II jamming characteristic of, say, `94 "Tweezer"s, and the Type III jamming of this summer, a groove-oriented ride into funk. (I think the Type III jamming moniker should also incorporate the definition of a groove-oriented jam, not just pure funk.)
Trey then busted into "Tweezer", which I don't remember much of, unfortunately. Then, well along into the jam, Trey said something to Mike which I thought/dreamed was "Let's play `Destiny'" but wasn't. He then turned and spoke to Page, then to Fish. I assume he was telling them to play "Black-Eyed Katy", because on Trey's count, they all played distinctly rhythmic notes, with Fishman kind of filling in the beats where everyone else wasn't playing. (It was a really fast rhythmic pattern.) I assumed that it was "Black-Eyed Katy" and that it would be funky. Yep, it was funky. Then, they seemed to go back into "Tweezer" and ended again with a spacey fade out, but not before heavily teasing "Cities". "Piper", which I like, was very powerful. With each second, it got faster and more powerful! It seemed longer than other "Piper"s that I heard that summer.
"Antelope"! That's all I have to say. Rather, that's all they have to play to get the crowd incredibly pumped. There was such uproar when they went into the fast part after the beginning that my ears hurt. After a seemingly endless jam, which was like most "Antelope"s, they brought it way down. "Rye Rye Rocco"...Michael (points) Esquandolas." No reaction from Mike. After "Rye Rye," they flubbed the usual segue into the "You gotta run" part, but they managed to bring it back with even more energy when everything got organized. Trey lit up the crowd with "Set the gearshift for the high gear of your soul!" After they ended, the crowd went totally nuts. My ears were hurting from the thirteen thousand screaming fans. My ears don't normally hurt at shows, so maybe that should tell you something about the show.
This was an awesome way to end the show, and my thoughts for an encore soon enveloped my brain. Having missed the previous night's "Guyute" encore, I was hoping for something special. Although "Bouncin'" wasn't quite what I was looking for, I liked it as I always do. I think it is a really well-written song, unlike a lot of people. Then "Tweezer Reprise" blasted through the speakers, which was nice, but it unfortunately meant the end of the show. Trey was ecstatic, dancing all over the stage, just waiting for Fishman's accompaniment.
It ended an incredible show very nicely, in my opinion. The show had the most jamming I have ever heard at any one Phish concert. Even more than 12/31/95 New York, I think, if you compare the length of the show with the percentage of jamming that occurred. All in all, it was way up there in my list of the greatest that I have seen.
Interesting that's it never been noted that Page and Mike are teasing "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" in Halley's Comet starting around the seven minute mark. It's subtle, but it's there. Especially in Mike's bass line.
A confession: I was late to come around to this show, and had already heard almost half of the shows from Fall '97 before I downloaded the Hampton '97 auds. I like to play the know-it-all music critic, and when some book/record/film/tv show gets recommended to me too many times, I can become increasingly reluctant to follow up it. Does that happen to anyone else? Well anyways, you probably don't need another review to convince you that this is a great show, especially since it is currently among the highest-rated shows listed on the .net. All I have to say is that I would have paid the price of the entire boxed-set just to own the remastered SBD the *first* set of this show.
I am really enthusiastic about this show! Jaded oldbies' fondness for it may have rubbed off, but I've sampled its delights for myself and found it worthy to orders of magnitude heretofore unknown, back when I first traded for the two '97 Hampton shows on CD-R back in '98 or '99. I even remember the red ultra-fine-point Sharpie labelling on the inner rings of the discs (remember not to marker up your discs' surfaces, except the pure plastic on the inner rings!) Mike's is huge, and IIRC, resembles or presages 12/30/99's huge version by not having the fabled second jam, as well as possessing an aura of foreboding that is nonetheless "securely weird." Hydrogen is blissful, as always. Weekapaug is also extended, with funk galore and one of my favorite features sometimes found in Weekapaug, which is Page on clavinet. This version reminds me of my favorite version, 8/16/96. Right around 10:30 Mike seems to be hinting at Talking Heads' Once in a Lifetime. (Just saying!) Hood is given a lengthy excursion, as well... brought to mind is 12/11/99's inversion of the Mike's Groove > Hood formula, as that show opened Hood > Mike's Groove (and contained an all-timer second set, taboot!) Train Song makes another welcome breather appearance before Billy breathes. Billy Breathes fits well on its eponymous studio album, but I think it might not have been out of place on Rift (if it had been written early enough, though I digress.) Another example of Phishy continuity (or retroactive continuity, as you wish.) Frankenstein is fun (see 12/30/97 for a truly "out-there" Frankenstein.) I am decidedly in the majority of not being a huge *Phish covering Izabella* enthusiast. It's a great showcase for Trey and Fishman in particular, but I dunno. Just to not leave the first-set recap on a downbeat, though, this one truly does rule all kinds of ass.
See the show notes for what you're hearing--and hearing Trey respond to from the stage--before Halley's. My heart breaks a little bit to this day still when Trey moans like a monster or whatever in response to the chant What follows, however, is the legendary "Hey Mike, stay on F" Halley's Comet. This version is funky, no doubt, as most everything was in Fall '97, but in an almost fusion way, thanks mostly to Fish's jazzy drumming. Halley's concludes with ambient jamming, which would play a big role in 1998 and onwards. Whew, 26-minute Halley's, and now Tweezer?!? This Tweezer is *only* (LOL) 12 minutes long, but for that reason is one of the most concise Type-II Tweezers and really tickles my fancy. Black-Eyed Katy, how do I love thee? A great reading of BEK kind of falls gracefully into Piper, with the slower build that phans were treated to in that era compared to the dare I say rushed builds of 3.0? Contrast this set-closing Antelope with 12/6/97's version for a study in a straight, raging 'Lope versus a funk-themed 'Lope. 'Twould be interesting to see more experimentation in Antelope nowadays in 3.0 IMO. Bouncing > Tweeprise encore, no fuss, no muss. She whispered words and I awoke and stepped into the freezer. I encourage you to do the same.
I'd done a lot of listening to phish, but only seen them three times prior to this show, including the night before, which, at the time, I said was "alright," just to give you an idea of where I was, musically speaking.
12/11/97 first set is the greatest single set of phish, but this is a close second. I don't know how to explain, but it was obvious from the first notes of Halley's they were going to destroy. I've never been mind fucked this hard in person. BEK builds to one of the most warped, exciting climaxes In phish history. This Antelope is vicious And without parallel. That's saying a lot. Trey sounds like a hungry wolf ready to rip the throat out of whatever idea passes through his brain. There's no hesitation in this music. I walked out knowing I'd seen something special. How could I ever have dreamed they would do the same thing every night for the next month?
Any review of the '97 Hampton run (or, rather, the entire Fall Tour) is futile, as words cannot do justice to the sheer chemistry of the band as a unit at the time, and the only way to fully understand is to listen for hours on end, rewinding, replaying, and sharing in the neverending groove the band established in the later months of 1997.
The second night of the Hampton stand is on fire from the starting gate, opening with one of the tastiest Mike's Grooves ever performed. A lesson in space funk, the Mike's displays incredible patience in the minimalist dance grooves, BEK teases, and spacey loops. At 10:15 the monster rears its head and the music is propelled forward without glancing back and we are thrown into an alternate dimension with the Languedoc as our only guide. Space that resembles the deepest fathoms of the universe as well as the previous night's Emotional Rescue jam seeps slowly into a stunning reading of I Am Hydrogen. Weekapaug delivers a wonderfully quick, sharp, funky, and perfectly SOARING final blow to this killer 35 minute show opener.
What comes next is a huge, more than welcome surprise: Hood. Harry Hood! It's clear the set isn't going to let up any time soon. Haunting Halloween-like music stretches across the song like a tree's roots and the entire composition is nailed with pristine accuracy. The jam here is patient and serene, and it's a slow climb to the mountaintop. The end result is a marvelous peak and rush of euphoria near the journey's end, as most good Hoods explode into. Very nice stuff here, and a jaw dropping way to open the 2 night stand.
Train Song > Billy Breathes is a more than welcome breather, and one that is well deserved. Both songs are treated well here, and Frankenstein > Isabella is a fine way to end this ride.
After a futile attempt from the crowd to get the band to bust out Destiny Unbound, Mike starts to sing Halley's and the rest is simply history. Incredibly danceable and exploratory funk takes over the coliseum and slowly shape-shifts into a different beast altogether, weaving in thick grooves with ambient space. Mike is really the star here, laying down bomb after bomb until the song dissipates into a brutal head on collision with itself. Out of the divine wreckage comes Tweezer, as fierce as ever. The jam heavily teases Black-Eyed Katy and doesn't really seem to go anywhere other than the inevitable segue. But boy is it fuuuunky. BEK keeps the trend going, delivering a mind melting solo and climax from Trey. I wish this song didn't get Moma'd so early.
Piper's build is lengthy and moving, as it should be. It hadn't broken the mold yet, but this is a great standard version. Page sounds great, as he has for the duration of the show. Trey goes off and destroys an absolutely ferocious Antelope that closes set two in excellent form. What a damn show. Bouncing > Tweeprise is standard but sends everyone home happy.
If the set list isn't enough to sway you, just dive in head first anyway, every single note played this night is pure magic, and only a fool would pass up such a remarkably heady and revered show. 5 out of 5.
I've managed to find a pretty large number (considering the task) of independent recordings of this show. Needless to say, though this is an opinionated statement: this show is one of the best PHiSH shows of all time without a doubt, and is one of the shows that combine to form a list of default listens ... However significant of an opinion it may be, I'm quite positive that an uncountable amount of Phish lovers would agree with me; many have, thus, putting 11-22-97 on their own list of default shows to listen to over and over and over and over. I've listened to this show countless times and love it. The band members seem to remember their collective performance and individual nights of exceptional artistic display quite damn fondly as well; they've released the show as part of the "Hampton/Winston-Salem" collection. I could ramble and ramble on about this show ... (Which makes me think I may (will) soon write and leave a review for the band's 'Zeppelinesque' show from AC, NJ from 10-30-10) ... But this show, of all shows I could ramble continually about, is a must-frickin'-listen. I'm bummed when friends that also enjoy Phish can't pinpoint this show or remember listening to it. A phenomenal show by the four members of the band, as previously stated, individually and collectively ... AND! ... SUCH ... SICK ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... WHIPPIN-ILL-NASTY FUNK that was the main/recurring theme of Fall Tour '97 a.k.a. 'PHiSH Destroys America'. Cow Funk ... Check this out check it out.
Is this the best Phish show of all time (outside of Cypress, since that is it's own category).
I say yes. Many will agree. Here's why:
Mike's Song opens set I, in an age where Mike's Song was a big ol' jamming machine. Sure there's not a "second jam" but there's a big long first jam that explores tons of spacey ground. Grooves, textures, layers, energy are all packed into this 14 minute or so version, which goes gently and quietly down -> Hydrogen
Hydrogen is beautiful and delicate and has a little atypical bit of soloing out front from Trey. It's a favorite version for me and notable. ->Weekapaug.
Weekapaug Groove is great version. The proper type I jam to start is plenty fun and plenty fierce, and then they shift on a dime into a funky '97 romp. Dance away to this one, which has a nice hint of darkness as well. ON a full stop from the funk jam they kick back into high gear to finish use off with a fiery peaking conclusion to the type I Weekapaug jam. Well that was great, what's next?
Harry Hood 4th spot set I! Wowzers! This version is long and patient. The jam is beautiful with a slow build full of melody and patience. Very very nice. They peak it in glorious fashion, with Trey firing off some incredible notes.
There's not a better four songs to open a set I outside of 11/17/97 (and that's only because the Ghost supersedes anything in this opening 4 pack).
Train Song is the come down and serves its purpose well. I always find myself smiling when it comes on after those 4 tunes.
Billy Breathes is another contemplative tune and I've always enjoyed Trey's solo in it.
Frankenstein>Izabella kicks us in the pants and fires us into set break. Izabella!!!! Trey is on fire!!!!
Overall - legendary set I. Guess you could give 11/17/97 the nod for best ever first set - but you wouldn't hear me complaining if you picked this one either.
Halley's starts us off and boy what a version. This is rightly considered one of Phish's greatest jams. The soundboard gives us the "Hey Mike, stay on F" insight into the band's eagerness and spontaneity on this night (in this era). It's so loose that everyone just starts playing. It's purely four musicians communicating - and only serves to underscore the incredible chops these guys have and the fact that they do something on stage that is totally original. Just go listen to this. The ending of the jam is unbelievably beautiful.
They drop into Tweezer?! Which must have felt incredible in the arena. This version doesn't go crazy, but serves as a good jam launch pad into a funky excursion that becomes the recognizable Black Eyed Katy.
BEK is funky and climaxes into a good peak. This version isn't as good as the next nights (wow!!), but the pairing is just a funk fest and is so much fun.
Might as well play a classic Piper next, another fine version from an era where Piper was played differently (and to many, played better). Which >Antelope.
Antelope is great. It drives to a dizzying, spiraling peak worthy of any Antelope lover's adoration. It's unbelievable stuff to close a second classic night in a row.
They encore with Bouncin', which seems appropriate with all the fireworks they displayed. Tweeprise melts any remaining faces and the show is over.
Overall 5/5 - like I said, probably the best ever, unless you truly don't care for the stylings of the era.
Maybe I'm still hearing Prince everywhere these days, but Mike's at about the six minute mark has some strong Sign O' The Times jam/feel happening. Was listening on the commute this morning and wanted to double check and see if it was noted. Maybe a stretch, but check it out and see what you think.
The recent box set release brought this show back onto my radar. The Halley's jam is simply sublime, absolute peak Phish. The jam never relents, it progresses and progresses. It's been written that this jam is the beginning of the Island Tour sound, space funk. I would argue that it truly started during the 2nd set of 11-17-97, but on this night, Halley's refined the sound that would develop over the next few weeks and months. It's truly a high watermark for the band. And the followup? >Tweezer->Black Eyed Katy, Piper>Antelope. It may not be the best show ever, but it belongs on the list.
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