, attached to 2023-04-21

Review by DevinB

DevinB Oh, you know it was a good show when all the salty East Coasters stay up late to sandbag it! Sour grapes, suckas. Sorry you couldn't make it to the bowl. Best of luck at MSG ????

For the rest of us, let's talk about what we learned tonight...

First, that whole "no tour repeats" theory went right out the window as soon as they dropped into The Moma Dance. And you know what? Good! They're feeling it. They don't need to appease anybody but themselves. Second, they made it clear that they were only gonna jam on their own terms tonight. This Moma is a rager. No real dynamic except a downhill moment that would carry over to Sigma Oasis, which saw the first substantial jamming of the evening. It's a clean, sharp Type I affair that begins in an unassuming way and reaches a modest peak. A lean, mean Party Time sets the stage for the first surprise of the night courtesy of a classic Shuggie Otis track. I caught its debut at the Baker's Dozen and managed to catch it again in Charleston a few years back. The arrangement never changes, but it's a clear fan favorite that had us dancing clear up at the top of the Bowl tonight. And with that, we have ourselves a show!

Loose and limber, Trey leads the charge into Everything's Right, which still seems to be a controversial pick among 2.0ers, 1.0ers, and No.0ers looking to tout their aging tour cred by bashing new material. Luckily, the band cares not for your clout-chasing negativity. This Everything's Right is everything right about our beloved band 40 years(!) on. Yeah, the sentiment might feel a bit corny, but you can't argue with results. The band takes this mother out for the spin of first-set spins tonight, working their way through at least one key change and a couple of stellar peaks. By the time they decide to wrap it up, they don't even care about modulating back. They just drop right back into the refrain. That says a lot about their unbelievable musical aptitude, but also about their adventurousness, turning in a massive Type II jam late in the first frame.

With both the crowd and the band in need of a short breather, we get a proficient-if-inspired Shade, the beauty of which seems a natural compliment to such a scenic venue. Mike quickly brings the energy back up with everyone's favorite Son Seals track, getting the crowd back on their feet as we pull into the set's final stretch.

I'll be the first to admit I've been sleeping on A Wave of Hope, but I'm happy to report that will be the case no longer. This set-closing take, built on a rollicking Rhythm & Blues backbeat, puts its thumb on the throttle and burns a path clear through to the end. Trey's rapid-fire guitar work toward the climax is a thing of beauty. Inevitably, this jam is going to be overshadowed by the longer, deeper explorations that surround it, but don't sleep on this guy. I think it might have been my second favorite jam of the night.

At that brings us to the oh-so-inspired second frame...

Yet another tour repeat — Sample — kicks things off on the right note. This is an unremarkable version, but its job is not to impress. It is merely a launching pad, a springboard into the abyss of deep improvisation that would follow. Disease in the #2 slot is usually a good sign. Its been known to break big here. And, mercy, does it ever!

This Down With Disease is a masterpiece. I'm saying that without a second listen and I'm pretty confident about that statement. Why? Well, I can tell you that it gets pretty interesting pretty quickly. The band experiments with some key changes before locking in on one that balances light and dark on a knife's edge. When Trey gets a little too happy or blissed out, Page pulls him back down to earth and reminds him to keep his feet firmly planted in the dirt. This jam peaks in a manner similar to the first crescendo of the Berkeley Tweezer — that is, quasi-heavy metal ornamented with some booming drops courtesy of El Gordo, nervy electronics courtesy of Chairman Rageside, and some delightfully wicked guitar theatrics from our boy Pistachio. I don't know if it will translate at all to the recording, but the climax of this beast had the entire Bowl vibrating and reverberating in real time. Even a salty East Coaster looking for excuses to write off this show will find something to love here. Trust me. This jam is peak Phish. Listen without distraction.

Now, instead of resting on their laurels by taking another lightweight victory lap (à la Shade), the band launches into the knotty Mercury, bereft of jamming, navigating its twists and turns deftly into a very clean transition to the next big jam vehicle of the evening: Blaze On. Noting the song's weedy double entendres, Trey casually switches up some lyrics on the fly to include references to the Bowl (heh, get it?) and generally seems to be having a great time here. I mean, who could blame him? This venue is absolutely stunning. The crowd is locked in and hanging on every note. It's time for another one to break big. The jam is smart and nuanced, featuring subtle rhythmic and harmonic shifts that gradually build toward a patient and well-rounded peak. My money is still on Disease as the jam of the night, with the dark horse AWOH trailing close behind, but I don't want to undersell this Blaze On. It develops beautifully and it never loses momentum. In some ways, it might be the most 'classic' jam of the bunch. I would recommend at least one complete listen.

Closing things out, the band launches into an inspired YEM, played cleaning and featuring a really nice Trey-Mike duel en route to one of the better vocal jams I've seen. Maybe there's something to be said for actually being there in the moment, feeling the wind pick up momentarily while the band's voices echo off the canyon walls. It's almost... supernatural. I think we all probably figured this YEM would close the set (as it is wont to do), so it was a pleasant surprise to hear the band count off a buoyant Cavern to close things out instead.

That's a stellar six pack of music right there, people. Don't just take my word for it. Grab a cold one and fire up the stream. You'll be glad you did.

Drift While You're Sleeping proves to be the perfect encore, emerging at an unassuming pace that picks up steam on its way to a final singalong, neatly punctuating both the song and the show. With that, we have night 1 in the books!

Really, folks, I'm sorry you weren't here tonight. I know it's makes you real mad. I know you're going to rage-listen to this one tomorrow and you'll begrudgingly bump that impulsive four-star rating up to five where it belongs. This show was absolutely wonderful to see in person and I hope that comes across in the recording. Great song selection, inspired performances, and some absolutely stellar Grade-A jamming. Drop all that into the Hollywood Hills in one of the most scenic venues anywhere in the world and you have the makings of a stone classic.

Don't sleep on this one, folks. It might be the show of the tour (so far!). It bodes well for the rest of the run and the rest of the year. I'll catch y'all somewhere down the trail.


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