, attached to 1997-12-29

Review by n00b100

n00b100 12/30/97 is generally regarded as being in the upper echelon of Phish shows, not just Phish shows of 1997, and there's good reasons for that - the big-time bustouts, a glorious Taste in the first set, an over-the-top second set with a legendary AC/DC Bag, and an extended "we're gonna do this because we're Phish and we love our fans" encore that pretty much stamps a big fat "This Is An Event Show" sign on the whole affair. But I submit to you that the best show of the New Years 1997 run was actually played the night before, on December 29th, and is another show that deserves its place in the pantheon.

The first set is typically strong '97 first set fare, when they took those first sets extra seriously - there's a kickass Crossroads (2nd to last played, unfortunately), a solid Theme from the Bottom, Fluffhead!, and a "you must listen to this now" Antelope that builds tension like a great Hitchcock denouement before hitting a cowfunk breakdown that gives the song that much added oomph. Seriously, this is an A-plus Antelope right here - it might not come screaming out of the gates banshee-style like '94-'96, but its subtle, swirling build to the funked-out climax might be even more impressive. "Lots more funky music," Trey says before hitting the Antelope closing theme, and boy is he telling the truth.

The second set is one of those sets that people think of when they think about how f-ing awesome Fall '97 is (even though it's technically not part of Fall '97) - five songs, all connected by the insane creativity the group had going at that time, creating a set of music that feels like it has no choice but to go together (even if it's not all one massive segue-fest like 12/6/97 II). DWD rocks as hard as it always does, then cools down and gets gritty on us, delay loops and Page's organ flourishes and all (Gordon does some really quality work here, including maaaaybe teasing Low Rider at one point?). From the chilled-out DWD comes a tremendous Bowie, which starts slowly out of the composed section, but then hits a nice jamming sweet spot before hitting the closing section, which builds and builds and builds...and then charges headlong into Possum. Page almost immediately teases I Can't Turn You Loose, and the band soon picks up on it and we get a full-fledged jam, the sort of thing that might have felt cutesy or jokey in years past, but now feels fully *earned* and is played with the intensity and funk-laden skill it deserves. That jam might very well be the highlight of the night, Phish's '97 style allowing them to play music they might never have been able to properly play before. The band then rips back into Possum, which rocks along nicely before a surprise and welcome I Can't Turn You Loose reprise. After a quick breather, Tube steps up to the plate and immediately drops some more funkiness on our heads, especially in the razor-sharp, loop-laden breakdowns (that I Feel The Earth Move tease is so great). And just when you think it can't get any better, they only go and drop a YEM on us, with another Can't Turn You Loose tease just for funsies and a simmering boil energy all throughout a tremendously danceable stop-start jam, leading to a chill vocal jam a la 11/17/97. Good Times Bad Times is a nice way to close things out.

12/30/97 is always going to be the favorite of the NYE '97 run, and there's no reason to begrudge that, as it is a great show. But 12/29/97, to me at least, is the crown jewel of the run, Fall '97 in excelsis, funk and rock and high-class jamming and Phishiness all slammed together into one heady brew.


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