, attached to 1997-02-13

Review by kipmat

kipmat We love artists like Phish because they are constantly developing and progressing. The Phish Book and the film Bittersweet Motel are invaluable documents because they capture the band during 1997-98, a period of professional and aesthetic transition. The four members were settling new career goals for themselves, while revamping their artistic goals. This led to a notable evolution in the band's overall sound, the effect of which is still heard in the Phish of today. This contrast in styles is most evident when comparing Night 2, set 2 of the Clifford Ball with Night 2, set 2 of The Great Went. How did Phish change so much over 12 months?

In The Phish Book, Page comments on the decision to undertake the European tour: 'We didn't just say, "Let's play some clubs!" We've always enjoyed developing new audiences, and short Europe tours seemed like a natural step in that direction'. Just as Santana helped the band break into the Amphitheater circuit in 1992, opening for Santana during the Summer of 1996 allowed Phish to make career inroads in Europe. Meanwhile, the band was adjusting to playing to larger audiences in cavernous arenas, requiring a different approach to performance. That the band was making changes to their sound at this time seems like a coincidence - but maybe it wasn't. The Fall '96 tour was actually less busy than the previous two Fall tours, but the band recognized the opportunities presented by the Winter European tour. Playing shows in front of smaller audiences allowed the band to relax while developing and refining their sound for the rest of the year.

The setlist for this show bears many similarities to the 2/16/97 show that was recorded for broadcast on the German TV show Rockpalast. That broadcast is one of the better freely circulating videos of Phish in the 90s, but the Shepherds' Bush show gets the nod from me. I can hear extra swagger in songs like Wolfman's Brother, Poor Heart, and Cars Trucks Buses, and good debut performances of the meta-originals "Walfredo" and "Rocka-William". This show also features plenty of cover tunes, a strategy Phish would continue to employ during the tour, culminating with the Cities breakout on 3/1. Slave and Hood in the same set is a treat, and the Jam out of PYITE is must-hear wackiness, starting with the only confirmed spotting of the elusive "Close To The Edge" tease by Trey and taking off from there. Opinions may be divided on this show based on the previous reviews, but to my ears 2/13/97 is a winner.


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