Vocals: Page (lead), Fish (backing)
Original Artist: Talking Heads
Original Album: Remain in Light (1980)
Albums: Live Phish 15
Historian: Mark Toscano
One of Talking Heads’ most haunting tracks, Phish performed “Listening Wind” along with the rest of Remain in Light on 10/31/96. After the amusing vignette that was “Seen and Not Seen,” the band swelled into the ambient beginnings of this song. Trey returned Mike’s bass to him and picked up his guitar, with which he produced incredible soaring bird sounds throughout the performance, beautifully capturing Adrian Belew’s guitar work from the original album version.
This song tells a different jungle story than its predecessors, one in which the jungle is dying or already dead. Gone are the intertwining tangles of sound and rhythm that marked “Born Under Punches,” “The Great Curve,” and so on. “Listening Wind” is the most minimalist song on the album, a decision made to underscore the somber critique of David Byrne’s gorgeous lyrics. While listening to the wind tell its story, one can easily imagine a barren landscape, once alive with richness and vigor, but now stripped and violated. The cascading gray clouds of an unending storm lay overhead, and an ineffectual breeze tosses about the choking remnants of the earth.