SET 1: In the Midnight Hour, Wild Child, Jam -> Bertha, Can't You Hear Me Knocking -> St. Stephen Jam -> Can't You Hear Me Knocking, Camel Walk, Eyes of the World -> Whipping Post -> Drums
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Review by Dunwoody
After what sounds like some pre-recorded chimes that serve no discernable purpose, the band kicks up Wild Child (Trey vox). Trey takes a gem of a rock solo on the way out of Wild Child.
I think there probably ought to be a ">" between Wild Child and "Jam" on the .net setlist. The jam starts up immediately at the end of Wild Child. The Jam is rather reminiscent of some of the more out-there jams from WRS into Let It Grow circa '74, in that it has a heated pace with some furious soloing and bouncy bass. (I apologize for all the Dead references in this review, but they were clearly very Dead influenced in the beginning). For his part, Jeff sounds far more comfortable in his role here than in the 12-2-83 Scarlet Fire, and he comes in with some edgy phrasing that pushes the band into a cohesive peak that resolves in some St. Stephen-esque jamming before segueing cleanly into Bertha (and Fish, for his part, while not hitting the complexity we expect from him now, crushes it).
Trey continues to handle vocal duties in Bertha. I have a hard time telling from this recording who does the guitar fills during the verses, but they're great. Fish does some interesting drum work shortly after the "test me test me" verse, really attacking it in a way Mickey and Billy didn't until a bit later when that line really exploded (see, e.g., Ticket to New Years).
The .net setlist has a St. Stephen jam appearing after Bertha. Not on my recording. Some pre-recorded yelling preludes Can't You Hear Me Knocking (Trey). It's a surprisingly clean take on the song, with the band really nailing the changes throughout and a couple clear-as-day St. Stephen quotes. Fish gets a bit raucous in the "jam" section (and Mike's right there with him), but Trey stays pretty well in pattern and Jeff sounds like he has a tough time hanging on at points, but just like the Phish we know and love today they manage to push through it for the most part -- they manage to reel things in a bit and push through to some new territory just when it sounds like they're going to give up and bail. I'm pretty sure my recording cuts here though unless they really just stop on a dime (also, I'm missing all but the very end of Camel Walk).
The band tunes for a while after Camel Walk, which will sound odd to those adjusted to contemporary Phish. The tuning resolves into a very slow Eyes that has some creative guitar phrasing right from the start. Trey "sings," but by now has adopted his talking vocal style that he then maintained for so long. After the first verse, we get a cool solo with a nifty reverb pedal I'm not familiar with. Fish keeps trying to speed the tempo up, but nobody wants to let him. Oh well. (Also, while .net notes Daubert sits in on percussion for Whipping Post, I think he may be there on Eyes too. It sounds like someone is playing a shaker at times, though it could be a trick of the recording). After the second verse, Trey solos mostly on chords, which is a neat touch and shows he's starting to depart from Jerry's style a bit more than 12-2-83. It also leaves a lot of room for Mike to play, but the break on the whole is pretty sparse. It's almost like Trey's reaching for a sound he can't quite articulate yet (or, you know, maybe it's Jeff, it's really hard to tell who's who at times). A return to the verse confirms that Fish has succeeded in gradually speeding this Eyes up to a normal tempo. From there, the band brings the tune to a spectacular peak that, you know, if you're only going to listen to one part of this show, that's probably the part.
On my copy, a short bass solo at the end of Eyes sounds like it leads right into the intro to Whipping Post, but you know how misleading old recordings can be. Whipping Post starts a bit sloppy, but comes together for the opening verse (Jeff, I guess). If you like Whipping Post (I do), you'll like the jam sections of this, but you'll cringe a little at the badly-botched second verse. My copy cuts out at the end of Whipping Post, so I don't have the Drums, which is a shame because I would like to hear what a Phish Drums sounds like. Oh well.
I'm giving this a 3, but really only because it's such an old show and can't genuinely be compared to, say 12-31-95. This isn't the proggy Phish we initially fell in love with, nor is it a demonstration of the cohesive "Type II" jamming we found later. It's a smoker though, and not just one for completists.