, attached to 2000-06-16

Review by phootyjon

phootyjon [Written for Phish Show of the Week Club, 8/17/2012]

The year 2000 was a big one for Phish – they released one of their most highly regarded studio albums (Farmhouse) in May of the year and then embarked on their first mini-tour through Japan; with 7 shows in about 8 days played throughout Tokyo and Osaka and some smaller provinces between the two. The Zepp Osaka show was the last of their 7 shows and came fresh off the heels of the immortalized Drum Logos show two days earlier. Apparently the Zepp Osaka venue was akin to a ballroom; with big vaulted ceilings, plush carpet in the orchestra section, and cocktail waiters circling around with drinks - I read online that the room was “no larger than a postage stamp”; others describe it as intimate. Throughout this tour Phish played venues and created sounds that were in doubt intimate and this show at The Zepp is a prime example of why that is accurate.

The show opens to what sounds like no more that a few hundred people clapping and cheering; a vast difference from the sonic cheer-boom of today’s summer/fall excursions. After a few seconds the opening notes of Limb by Limb break in and we hear the first lyrics sung crisply by Trey. The song progresses as usual until we get to the build of the 1st peak which has a decidedly slower and more deliberate pace than usual. The build almost has a meandering feel with Page (on the baby grand) and Fish (knee deep in a cool shuffle style beat) playing around Trey’s upwards scaling. As this slow 1st peak is being formed Trey diverts off the beaten path by dropping some ethereal notes that put this Limb into a dream like state. About 8 minutes in Trey tightens his grip on this Limb as he ebbs and flows soft, patient runs between the layers created by the Mike, Page, and Fish. Around the 9min mark we get some large, crisp, effect-laden sustains by Trey and for the first time in this already atypical opener you can start to feel the energy attempting to go up a notch. However this energy is cycled back downwards into more contemplative riffs from Trey with some almost Norwegian Wood jam-esque notes materializing around the 12:30min mark. The band sets their sights on reaching the top of the 1st peak as Trey tries to hasten the pace with some solid machine-gun work around 13mins in; but to no avail. This beautiful sounding Limb starts to feather back down to earth after having seen the boys (and Trey specifically) throw a kitchen sinks worth of jamming styles at it. And while this Limb really doesn’t satisfy the jock-rock bravado of others before it, it is obvious that the music that will follow it will be a master class in patiently diverse musical improvisation.

Seconds after the quiet and extended Limb we get the first entry of the night from the Farmhouse album - Back on the Train. And while this song has become a monster jam vehicle for the boys in 2.0 & 3.0, this version is pretty standard clocking in just under 6min. After BOTT we get boilerplate (yet tightly played) versions Sample, First Tube (see Trey NOT flubbing anything during the tricky opening section) Golgi, and Heavy Things (a huge Far East fan favorite). Dirt shows up mid first set and serves to add some more literal and figurative depth to an already deep and patient show (this is my favorite of the 9 Dirt’s played in 2000 because you can literally feel the intimacy of the setting and the depth of the lyrics combine; very cool). After Dirt we get a balls-out rockabilly version of My Sweet One played in near double time followed by a well played and again PATIENT Bowie…no wait…Reba. This Reba will in no way go down as a Top 20 version but the tight playing up and through “the swallow” lends itself perfectly to the standard yet soulful (and mouse-like quiet) “chill” section. Luckily this down-tempo approach in “the chill” allows for a needed dose of energy from Trey, Page, and Fish as we start to build towards another patient and much appreciated Reba finishing peak (and a whistle finish for good measure). Character Zero (another Far East fan favorite) closes out the set with a much needed dose of straight forward rock energy helping to set our eyes (and ears) for what’s to come in Set II.

Set II opens with a 20+ min Runaway Jim that at times cycles through soft almost dampened guitar work from Trey and blistering, crash heavy crescendos from Fish and Page for the first 8mins. From here out we get some well layered, slow building interplay between Trey and Page and Trey and Mike. At the near 14min mark we start to hear the formation of this Jim’s first peak as Page hammers away at the baby grand and Trey works slowly (with some effects help) to a high register sustain. At the 16min in a new theme starts to develop led by Fish and Page that materializes around the 17:30min mark. From here to the close we get a super minimal almost plinko-style jam that becomes awash in spacey effects. The Theme from the Bottom that follows defines the meaning of a Phish segue as its hi-hat opening notes literally rise from ashes of the Jim still floating in the air. This Theme to start is slower and more down-tempo than usual until the 4min mark where Trey starts to add some extra drops of mustard to his notes. This carries on until the 7:30min mark when Fish takes this Theme into space with Trey and Page in accompaniment. An above average jam segment finds traction out of this spacey place and by 12mins in it feels as if we may scale a rare mini-peak towards the songs close. But by 13mins the boys tucker this Theme out as we fall gently (and again deeply) into a rarefied (especially in Japan) Dog Face Boy (this DFB works well both in delivery and set position; giving the audience and this listener a chance to ponder the intimacy and despair in the lyrics). After DFB we get an obligatory (“hey we need to play more shit from the new album”) Driver that I guess could be considered a continuation of the contextual themes expressed in song and lyric in DFB. The Driver concludes with little fanfare and brings us to an exceptional Slave to the Traffic Light. This Slave, similar to the Limb, Reba, Jim, and Theme that proceeded it, has a wonderfully muted and patient opening section that regroups at the 7min mark to make a an uplifting/upbeat charge up and over the songs anticipated peak at the 10:45min mark.

After Slave we get a well played and rather extended version of Julius that helps bring the spirit in the room up once more before we get another deep and meaningful moment in a Bug closer that contains some of the most heartfelt, soulful, and spot on playing of the night. I couldn’t help to think at this point how the Japanese audience must have felt hearing the ringing endorsement from Phish that life and it’s worries “DOESN”T MATTER” and how connected to and justified by Phish they must feel they are. In the encore we get a another Far East fan favorite in Bouncing Around the Room and a playful and American-spirited Hood that let’s the boys flex their improvisational musical muscles one last time.

When I finished this show I started thinking about what it must be like to be a head in Japan since Japan (despite it’s neon cum hipster allure) is a place of personal and emotional reservation. I started to wonder if Phish prior to their 7 show tour decided to put their “cock-out”, “melt your face off” style on the shelf in favor of something more contemplative and in-line with Japanese culture. Now after listening to the majority of the Japan tour and having given a deep listen to the Zepp show I can say without reservation that Phish knew what they were doing in playing the thoughtful, patient, deep, and diverse styles that they did. Job well done for sure; now who wants a large Kirin Ichiban and some tempura!?!?
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