, attached to 1997-12-11

Review by waxbanks

waxbanks Expanding on (and stepping back a bit from) my earlier comment:

The first set of this show is awesome and weeeeeird. A 20-minute DwD in the #2 slot? Yeah! Then a delicately creepy segue into Maze, which builds with unusual deliberateness from deep quiet to Trey's sci-fi roar (an engrossing pair of atmospheric solos from Page and Trey here). Trey was apparently in a ruminative mood this first set: check out the texturally-rich downtempo LxL batting fifth. No idea what Rocky Top was doing creeping in there, especially after a first-set Loving Cup. Oh well. Some nights just weave away from the straightline path, and it paid off here.

Actually there's a bit of an early/mid-2003 vibe to this show: lots of odd textures, opioid playing from Trey, quickstep tempos alternating with plodding oddities, a dark dark darkness creeping in around the edges. And of course the powerful stupidity of Roses Are Free, which Phish would later turn into a huge jam vehicle (4/3/98, 12/31/99) but which functions here as a goofy pick-me-up after the bedraggled ambience of Drowned. (Check out how little recognition it gets from the crowd, though! Funny).

The show is indeed outstanding, but not in a *purely* desirable way: the atmospherics are pervasive and strange and the first set must've blown minds on that night, but there's none of the feverish intensity and focus of 12/6, nor the partyfunk vibe of 12/7. The Ghost > DWD quote > Johnny sequence is fine, but Ghost is a straightforward, monotonic version with a solo from Trey that's either bravely restrained or sublimely boring depending on your tastes. Waste is Waste.

Definitely seek out this show - it's a treat to hear SBDs of Fall '97 no matter what the vibe is like. But I'm gonna revise my earlier enthusiasm to a cautious endorsement: this is one of the tour's weirder and (yeah) weaker shows. Its highlights are lovely, but a one-month stretch containing 11/21-11/23, 12/6, the three huge Worcester shows, and those wild Denver outings doesn't require this night to be a classic.


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