, attached to 2014-10-31

Review by foos01

foos01 In one line: this was one of Phish's most consequential performances of their career.

In more lines: There are so many occasions in life in which the path of least resistance is strong. It can incrementally take us away from what we are passionate about. This time, I pushed against the various forms of resistance and made it to the show. Met some great friends, old and new, on the floor of MGM. And it was undeniably one of the great peak moments of my life, which I am still processing. Thank you PHISH. I truly love this band with all of my heart. Soooo, for my review, I'll admit that it could be tinged by personal meaningfulness :)

In many ways, this story begins in Hartford, in 1983. Trey went to his first Grateful Dead concert. At the time he was really into dark, heavy metal. He recounts this experience in a CT Forum joint interview with Bob Weir. If you haven't seen this interview, you can and should watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90ItoM-wrmc /> As Bobby observes, "it knocked the metal right out of you." And since that defining experience for Trey, much of his compositions have been relatively bright, happy bits. They do sometimes have a dark, heavy rock sound. Carini and PYITE are go to examples as gateway songs for our metal friends who might be phish-curious. Not like I regularly proselytize Phish or anything.

So, with that said, last night was a BIG stylistic departure for The Phish. I'm not saying it was metal, but it was dark. All the talk since last year of feeling too constrained by musical costumes meant they were thinking really big when they reconsidered a cover album idea. They really thought about what would make an amazing show for HALLOWEEN. Trey and the others went pre-1983. It was a big risk and one of the most creative steps in their entire career. 30+ years in. Phish once again proves their relevance and keeps anyone labeling them a nostalgia act on seriously weak ground.

As soon as I saw the Phishbill (and figured out what the hell it was about), I wondered how the crowd would react. There are always a good number of phans on psychedelics, which don't always mix well with dark music and gory imagery. And to be honest, there was some tension and anxiety when the set began. One guy completely lost his shit, took off his clothes, and was alternately kissing other dudes on the mouth and pushing people around. His presence was menacing and like nothing I've ever seen at a show before. I believe he was finally removed from the crowd after 5 minutes of rampaging around. And maybe it wasn't the music and he would've acted like that during Sparkle -- who knows… But the darkness was new to a Phish show, and with a little time, the crowd adjusted. I would say that by the end of the Very Long Fuse, the crowd was completely locked in, dancing, and totally embracing it. I would love to hear what the behind the stage phans thought. They had an amazing view for this set.

Musically, I was blown away during the show. The band sounded very tight, and they must have spent a ton of time writing and rehearsing all of it. I've relistened to the set today, and I do have some thoughts. Compositionally, it's not as complex as much of the Phish catalog. Also, Trey didn't take a ton of soloing risks. There were moments that were open for a little shredding, but Trey seemed to opt for clean, melodic solos. So I would not at all call this a heavy metal set. It was pretty dark though (yet also quite funky and danceable). Fish's drum lines were driving and tight. I think there's room for him layer these more. Everyone is wondering if these songs will enter the normal rotation. If they do, I think some of them could develop into absolute beasts.

I could also talk at length about sets 1 and 2, but other people have already done that. I will say that "Is This What You Wanted" was beautiful and featured some pretty soulful singing from Mike. Great, very fitting choice. The ultimate grade on this show should be heavily weighted on what they did in Set 2. Set 2 is what puts this show in the conversation. It's what will make this one of the essential listening pieces for Phish for any phan. Think about that. From here forward, how can you comprehensively discuss the band without mentioning this show? All in all, I give this show somewhere north of 4.6. My rating on the 5 point scale is thus a 5.


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