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Published: 2004/01/27
by Glenn Alexander

Live Phish: 07-29-03 Burgettstown, PA – Phish

With a thousand questions in the air once Phish returned from Hiatus, fans

were eager, buoyant, doubtful, desperate or altogether frenzied with nervous

energy over the idea of seeing their band again. Fans pondered over what

kind of band we would have, exercising the long-held practices of predicting

and obsessing over what kind of shows the band was capable of at this point

in time. With a distinct proclivity towards redefining their sound and

their approach to playing live and writing songs, Phish have been one of the

least predictable bands on the scene; a key element in why we always go back

for more. In the past, those changes could be viewed from the curving lawn

or under a cavernous dome, where we could hear the sounds wafting to us from

afar and then, after processing the band's sound over days or weeks, we

could maybe sense another jump in the band's ongoing creative metamorphosis.

As always, however, predictions on the band's creative future always ends

up being laid down to rest once the music is heard.

The music on Live Phish 07-29-03 is some of the most invigorating,

and playful music of the band's career, and if this show is any indication,

the summer tour of 2003 was a mighty comeback for a band in much need of

rejuvenation. Like any great show, it is at one moment playful and

intricate, at others introspective and meditative, and at all times filled

with an energy that is pervasive and altogether entrancing.

"Daniel Saw The Stone" kicks things off into high gear, with the band

raising the old-time gospel sound and kicking it out to the crowd with their

boisterous vocals and earth-shaking rhythmic pounding with an almost

apocalyptic fury. The vocals are at the heart of this song, as Trey, Mike,

and Page all calibrate themselves perfectly to the song's impassioned

character. The "Camel Walk" that follows is altogether brilliant, with the

band nailing it from beginning to finish, exorcising the spirits of the

prog-rock and funk gods with authority and soul. "Jibboo" rises up

and eventually drifts into an ambient, breezy jam where Trey and Page

converse eloquently as Mike and Fish keep the steady groove rolling along

for a steady ten-plus minutes.

The Velvet Underground's "Cool It Down" follows with the band leaving none

the song's golden opportunities for soulful vocals and 70s groove uncovered

and the "Fee > Timber" that follows is one of the more lucid moments of the

night. The jam that follows "Fee," which is built around a series of simple,

repeating notes, eloquently shifts into "Timber" with real grace, the band

not hesitating for a moment when Trey hits the chords for the song. As

"Timber" moves along, the band pushes it into a jam with decidedly

momentum behind it. With the band putting out a solid set of music, the

"McGrupp" and "Golgi Apparatus" leave the crowd at set break with nothing to

complain about.

The second set dishes out more of a mixed bag, with the "Harpua" segment

into "Bittersweet Motel," as well as a Fishman sung, "Fooled Around And Fell

In Love." The rather careless yet energetic "Hold Your Head Up" seems

forced as Trey and Page lose each other in the songs maniacal personality.

But, it's the first 35-plus minutes of the set that needs most attention.

"Crosseyed and Painless" has always been a strong vehicle for exploring new

textures and grooves, and this version proves no exception. At over 25

minutes, the band finds itself weaving from tight grooves to searing

explosions, as well as into melodic introspection and selfless grooves where

the band is inextricably linked together as one unit, all playing together

for the benefit of the jam; quite a way to kick off a set. As "Crosseyed"

melts away under the lights, "Thunderhead" drifts to the surface like a

whale coming up for air. "Brother" makes its rambunctious appearance, as

the band unleashes its reckless personality onto the crowd with good humor

and thunderous authority. After the adventures of "Harpua" are played out,

"David Bowie" drifts into the air with Trey and Page creating swirls and

flourishes of color while we wait for Fish to bring in the song with his

signature roll. The song is carried off well by all the band members, with

the orchestrated beginning bristling with energy and precision, while the

jam is playfully beautiful. Here, the band reacts to Trey's flourishes and

melodic lines with real grace, creating an atmosphere that just builds and

builds, until the band unleashes the ending like a raptor diving for its


The filler on disc three showcase the band at their more sprawling moments

during the Summer Tour. The music in the "Piper > Twist" from July 9th is

captivating and dynamic, and the "Seven Below" from July 13th really morphs

an animal altogether different than the one that we were introduced to. On

this song, Trey really lets the band breathe, choosing to react to the band

in a more relaxed manner, instead of spitting out a confusing array of

notes. As the jam progresses, they take it into a Siket Disc-esque
jam that

enters with an undulating, morphing glob of rhythms and textures.

Phish made a wise choice with this release. It not only proves that the

band has come back stronger and tighter than before, but that they're

actively more attuned to each other in a way that hasn't been heard since

the mid-90s. Their interplay is thoughtful and progressive on this

release, with Trey holding himself back most of the time from suffocating

the band with his flurry of random notes. Older songs like "Camel Walk" and

"Brother" are played with a new intensity and clarity (especially the

former), while staples like "Bowie" and "Golgi Apparatus" are energetic and

This is a great primer for those of you wondering what Phish has become

since hiatus, and those of you more familiar with the tour, well, you should

already have this by now.

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