, attached to 2011-08-17

Review by waxbanks

waxbanks While this show doesn't go as deep as 8/15 or climb as high as 8/16, it's a strong finish to a consistently enjoyable tour of unpredictable 'jamminess,' which offered unquestionably the most exciting, promising music since Phish's return. Indeed, the UIC run is stronger and more interesting, wall-to-wall, than any three-show series since, what, Berkeley 2010? The third week of October 2010?


Expectations: unless you're what's apparently known as an 'it's all Hood' fan - damn, I'm learning new terms all the time these days - you probably either thrill to see that footnote-heavy setlist (quotes! teases! jokes! Buffalo Bill! Page's house!) or feel skeptical about a sub-4minute Ghost and a Makisupa/Sleep/BBill trifecta deep in the second set. Justified either way, given the band's recent history. But this music is up to the high standards set by the first two UIC concerts.

Lots of mustard on the Divided Sky(!), Gin, and Maze in the first, but the meat's in the second half as always.

Big Crosseyed to go, then a really weird effects-laden ambient bridge into No Quarter. What a well-chosen cover given Phish's current strengths...it serves as a rich dark/aggressive space for them to explore without submerging themselves in ice-cold 20-minute jams a la the late 90's, and the instrumental/rhythmic texture of it is unusual for them, partly under the vocals. Phish do enjoy playing parts...

Quick CrosseyedTimber, but after what seems to be the final chord Trey kicks back into a variation on the song's guitar rhythm, for 30 seconds of connective jamming just begging to be drawn out into a full-length exploration. This segues nicely into an unexpectedly beautiful Tweezer - one of those jams that sweetens its funk chords with a shot of major-key delicacy without tipping fully over into, say, 7/2/97 Stash-style Happy Anthems. Phish do this kind of polychromatic (polytonal) thing ALL THE TIME now, and it's a sure sign of newfound musical maturity and attentiveness. A lot of that comes from Mike's increased prominence, I think; he's able to suggest chords in his bass countermelodies and bounce new kinds of light off Trey's (let's simplify) blues-based playing.

After a lovely outro jam, Trey starts up a brief Caspian, which bounces along at a mezzoforte before a genuine guitar-led segue into the evening's highlight, Piper. They waste no time getting into spacious major-key jamming, but still find a way to quote Crosseyed on their way to a lightning-quick funk break and ambient bridge to Ghost. There's a LOT going on here! The amount of musical information in Phish's jams, for lack of a better phrase, has never been higher in all the time they've been playing together. When folks talk about a renaissance, a new peak for the band, this Piper is what they (we) mean. Less than nine minutes to cover all this musical ground? Ridiculous. Heartening.

Then it's into the abortive Ghost, about which I'm not sure what to say, other than - hey, it's the end of tour and Trey wanted to play a lot of different tunes. It's pretty much his band. I'd rather hear a long Ghost, but haven't they jammed enough this week? Do they owe us ten more minutes of race-to-the-peak nouveau-Ghost guitar rock?

So yadda yadda and then it's Antelope, which is Antelope, and yadda yadda three-song encore and you'll love it as long as you don't listen too closely to the 'Show of Life' lyrics. Kudos to Trey for such naked vocal performances, but that abysmal 'struggle and strife' line makes me want to sacrifice a copywriter to Odin or something.

So to review our review: fine first set, incredible run of tunes from Crosseyed through Piper, and the rest is just fun tour-closer material. And just so we're clear, the 'only good part of set 2' runs nearly an hour. Jesus, what more could you want?

This isn't the letdown of the UIC run, it's the capper. There's so much going on in every tune, so many little moments of humanity and empathy inside each jam, that even without a marquee long-form improvisation this show feels to me like a Must-Hear. The band is absolutely at a peak right now.


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