, attached to 2016-10-24

Review by Billiam

Billiam Oh, fall tour. After the ups and downs of summer 2016, I think we can all agree that we needed a reset button. The release of Big Boat and the unique structure of this tour have done just that. The multiple nights per venue was a wise decision, allowing the Boys to settle in and feel out each locale as they wade through their newly expanded repertoire.

The lot was mellow as the sun crept down over the north Texas praire. The sky was clear, the grass bristling. The smiling hairy ones crept in to Verizon Theatre Monday night with a calm, excited energy. This was my first show at Grand Prairie, and I was impressed with the intimacy of the venue. As the lights went went down, a palpable energy of expectation shimmered through us all. How much of the night will we be riding the Big Boat? What breakouts are in store for us tonight? Given the first-set surprises so far this fall, I think we all were happily clueless. Wooks, vets and noobs alike, all on the same dang page.

No Men in No Man's Land sprung us into action. The driving, shimmering funk got the booty-shaking off to a great start, and the Boys opened it up enough to satisfy any expectations off the bat. Breath and Burning brought us down a notch, and CK5 doused us with an ocean of cool blue. After a crisp rendition, we moseyed into a thigh-slapping Poor Heart. Everyone's funky Brother showed up to play tonight, and with a straightforward, funky dance party, our first set was meeting my high expectations to be on par with the best of the fall tour so far.

A soothingly slow Water in the Sky followed, reminiscent of the Chula Vista show this summer. I really like the toned down WITSs--they're like a happy molasses--but to each his own. A fun and straightforward My Soul follows with a train of NICU and It's Ice staying within the bounds of solid, good Phish. Ocelot slowly sprung out and took a bit to warm up, but eventually made its way to a nice flowing Type I jam.

Gordeaux treated us to a fun Fuck Your Face, which had me laughing and the whole room rockin'. Fish responded with his now-classic Ass Handed. He's getting tighter and tighter with his handling of the Asses, and I am inclined to agree with Trey's remark that it's the best song in their book. Fish disagreed, however, and introduced the following Saw it Again as their best. In SIA, we see the first taste of creeping, haunting grime that will resurface later in the night. Running Out of Time lifted us back up and was a truly beautiful moment in the wake of the Fuck-Ass-Saw. Fishman teased all of us with the grand question--Bowie or Maze?!--and Bowie brought the party back before set break. I wish we'd have gone further with this one, but alas.

Dog Faced Boy was a wonderful, welcome surprise after a 50 show gap. A lot of people were still making their way back after the break, but I think many of us locked in for this one. A delightful Seven Below followed, opening up just enough to explore itself before toning back down. Petrichor was a nice decision after Seven, offering a similar peaceful, pensive mood to what we all would turn out to be a fun Monday night rather than a jamfest. I agree with Gootch350 that a shortened Petrichor would work well--a lot of people cheer during their pauses, thinking it's the end of the song. Or maybe they're cheering the pause? It feels like they're cheering the end.

Maze brought the power back. Paige took over and raged us into a nightmarish jam that Trey locked into, with Fish and Gordeaux offering a striking, grotesque understory. Unfortunately, when Trey took the reigns back he pumped the breaks and wanted to deliver us all back in to his blissful dreamland, which killed the jam and settled us all down slowly. I was still panting and bleary-eyed when the song eased into Dirt, which I was elated to hear but regretted the placement in the setlist. After a 37 show gap, this thoughtful piece was well done and seemed to seal the score for anyone hoping to launch off into the utter Beyond. But Paige, oh Paige, had other ideas.

I Always Wanted It This Way took us down a wormhole, with Paige driving the ship and the rest of us in Tow. Give this one a listen... it will take you places. For anyone weary of the Big Boat infusion to the 3.0 era, let this one bring you into the fold.

Again, Trey brought us back from Paige's jamland and ushered us into Piperland, which was a fun change of sound and energy, but maybe not warranted. I guess we can't always be back in December of 1995, but jams like the IAWITW made me hope for it. We now have a happy, older Trey with ideas of his own. Bug was a fun closing for the set. The encore was straightforward and delightful. That's all I gotta say about that.

I enjoyed the continuous themes of nature in the song selection--open country, rain, fire, dogs and ocelots, dirt and bugs. Overall it was a solid, meaningful show for those willing to be there early in the week. Let's see what's in store for tonight!


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