, attached to 1997-11-17

Review by life_boy

life_boy Things 11/17/97 taught me about Phish:

==“Short” Setlists==
Early in my tape trading days (1999) when I discovered that the funkiness I loved about Slip Stitch and Pass was actually baked into the band’s live shows throughout 1997 and 1998, I came across this tape for McNichols 11/17/97. I really didn’t know what to make of the setlist. It looked so strange and short. The tape for set I was something like: “Side 1: Tweezer, Reba, Train Song” // “Side 2: Ghost > Fire.” What? 5 songs? And then I listened. So I learned that a seemingly shorter setlist isn’t a bad thing.

==Tweezer==
This is one of those shows I have returned to so often over the years it feels second nature. In the same way that A Live One set my “standard version” idea for each song on that release, 11/17/97 ended up establishing that for the funk era jams for “Tweezer,” “Ghost,” and “YEM.” “Tweezer” sets the tone for the momentum groove jam built around a clearly sustained beat, a clear departure from some of the multi-rhythmic epic “Tweezers” like 5/7/94. It is such a contrast that when I first heard it I didn’t realize how much I fundamentally liked the song—I had always been scared of some of the odder, less accessible moments of the Bangor “Tweezer” on ALO. So, 11/17/97 opened up a whole world for me in that regard. I began to seek out and ingest “Tweezers” like crazy.

==Slow songs==
Another thing I learned was the power of the short, slower “cool down” song in a set. After “Tweezer” and “Reba,” set I gives us “Train Song,” one of Mike’s tunes that was always lovely on Billy Breathes but finding a wonderful spot here in the first set. I learned to love these moments, not just rushing on to get to the jams, but to appreciate how a set comes together, how on this night in 1997, “Train Song” is the perfect bridge between “Reba” and a galaxy-altering “Ghost.” But it’s not just a “breather”—it can be a chance to just calm down and listen. Phish is more than jams and the thing that got us into them probably wasn’t simply an epic jam but some tonality, melodic hook, guitar riff, chorus, or some other piece of a song they never “took for a walk.” I needed those reminders in my younger, hungry days as a tape collector. Actually sit back and take it in. Remember why I liked the music to begin with. The songs are great and add dynamics to the set.

==Ghost==
The “Ghost” is definitely an all-timer. It is still one of my favorite Phish jams of all-time, top 10, maybe top 5. I’m not 100% sure but I think this was the first “Ghost” I ever heard live. Before that, I liked the song on the album okay but it didn’t mean a whole lot to me. But after this, I realized the song gave the band a canvas to paint all kinds of things upon. It made me listen to The Story of the Ghost album in a different way going forward too. Funny how a great live performance can do that for you.

==The Setlist Doesn’t Say It All==
I remember being highly skeptical about the second set. “Johnny B. Goode” is okay as an encore but it’s never a song you just seek out. But here, Phish engaged in a one-time-only insane rock jam coming out of the song, proving that there was always the potential for more than what it looked like on the j-card. Never underestimate Phish’s ability to surprise you.

==Conclusion==
Of course the show is a classic. Deservedly so. It has a 4.615 rating on 839 ratings as of this writing. It continues to resonate with fans and the availability from LivePhish’s official release helps. It was an instant purchase for me when it came out on CD in April 2002 and I got to live it all over again.
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