Jesus Just Left Chicago
Original Artist: ZZ Top
Original Album: Tres Hombres (1973)
Historian: Chris Bertolet (bertoletdown)
Last Update: 2016-03-01
Take a down-tempo, 12-bar blues and throw in conceptual lyrics about the Son of God on a road trip across America. Glaze with honky-tonk piano and plaintive, wailing guitar, and bake until crisp. Such is this confection from Texas trio ZZ Top, one of Phish’s less obvious influences.
ZZ Top, “Jesus Just Left Chicago”
“Jesus” graced Phish’s repertoire in 1987 and abided there until 1992, when it vanished for over a year. Since its resurrection in March of 1993, the tune has seen limited if consistent action up to the present day.
“JJLC” has been the vehicle for a number of notable jams over the years. From the early days, check out two outstanding versions from Nectar’s – 5/24/88 and 7/24/88 – both pushing fifteen minutes and anchoring third sets. 10/31/95 gave us a horn-infused “Jesus” with Dave Grippo on alto sax. In Hamburg, Germany, on 3/1/97, Phish segued out of “Wolfman’s Brother” into what would become the best-known version of “Jesus,” subsequently appearing on Slip, Stitch & Pass. That summer at the magnificent Gorge (8/3/97), the band plummeted from a swirling, psychedelic “Twist” into what would become a driving, mighty “Jesus.” Later that year on 11/17/97, “Jesus” went large in Denver on after emerging from a slick segue out of “Johnny B. Goode.” Six years later at The Gorge (7/13/03), Phish played a big ol’ “Jesus” – where else? – out of “Wolfman’s.”
“Jesus” sees only limited action in Phish 3.0, usually once or twice a year, and to date exclusively in the first set. For modern takes, check out 8/15/11 Chicago (remarkably, the only time Phish has performed the song within Chicago city limits), 8/3/13 San Francisco, or 10/22/14 Santa Barbara.