Phish, Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, NJ & First Union Spectrum, Philadelphia- 2/24&25
2/24, East Rutherford, NJ
As I walked through the lot before Monday’s Phish show at New Jersey’s
Continental Airlines Arena, I was suddenly transported back to 1998, where
extra tickets were more abundant than the lot kids looking for them. In
fact, through some stroke of luck, if you want to call it that, I was in
possession of extra tickets for last night’s show, one of which I ended
up throwing on the ground due to lack of demand (thank you
Christina and Britt who saved me and took the others!!). That being said,
the lack of demand for tickets outside was a precursor to the lack of energy
A band like Phish, which relies so heavily on a crowd’s enthusiasm and to a
smaller extent, their participation, walks a thin tightrope every single
night. It is that daring experimentation that sometimes leads to the up and
down sets and shows they frequently perform. And, of course, New Jersey was
The "Down With Disease" that opened the show was tight and short, about ten
minutes long, but the band failed to capitalize on their opener with the
subsequent "Corrina". The song, while very pleasant to hear (especially for
my friend Corrina who has logged miles waiting to hear this song) was placed
poorly, enticing a good portion of my section (Page side, top of the 100s)
to sit down, much to my amazement. Of course, the band quickly bounced back
with strong versions of both "Wolfman’s Brother" and "Limb By Limb",
however, it was the ensuing 47 minutes that essentially sunk the set.
Call me a pessimist if you like, but a twenty minute version of "Everyday I
Have the Blues" isn’t why I go to a Phish show. Now don’t get me wrong,
B.B. King (who joined the band at set’s set) is unquestionably a legend.
"Thrill Is Gone" and "Rock Me Baby" were both great and if those were the
only two songs they played, I would’ve been perfectly happy. However, the
band faltered a bit during "Everyday", at times unsure of what
to do. While the latter two songs ultimately proved redeeming, the initial
tune lost some of the crowd along with the band.
Trying to overcome the lackluster first set was going to be a momentous
stretch for Phish, as they sometimes allow subpar first sets to creep
into the second, especially when they aren’t adequately pushed by the crowd.
The band gave it a shot, opening with "Halley’s Comet" which, while solid,
never really took off before filtering down into "Harry Hood", which was the
strongest song of the night thanks to some brief exploratory jamming before the
ending lyric. "Heavy Things" followed, which served merely as a breather
for the band, before they decided to really let loose, by way of "Twist".
Perhaps one of the most purely experimental "Twists" since the very first,
the song dropped down into a dirty, dark jam, featuring some fantastic color
schemes from Chris Kuroda, and some truly magical light drumming from
Fishman. But as the jam was really, really getting good, Trey brought the
song back to its original riff, effectively killing what could have been a
great, great jam. It is worth noting that I cannot remember when I was ever
so disappointed at a Phish show than that very moment.
The rest of the set was, as well, up and down. The "Chalkdust Torture"
closer was a nice surprise, however it just wasn’t enough to save the show.
The site of section after section sitting down, wrapping a large portion of
the area around and behind the stage is an image I will not soon forget.
There is no doubt the band will bounce back, but one wonders if
the fans will keep doing the same?
2/25, Philadelphia, PA
Who knew Phish was playing Antarctica?As we pulled into the Philadelphia sports complex that houses what seems like ten sports stadiums all named by corporations that have nothing to do with sports, the site of many people sitting in their cars startled us. But I was soon reminded of two things: Seven Below isn’t just a song, and that Summer Tour is even better than I sometimes realize. Inside the venue, things were much different. Phish were heating up the stage with a strong first set. What’s weird, is that on paper, a set with Talk, Frankie Says and Water in the Sky might seem like less than desirable, however, their placement was perfect, each was played fairly perfectly (vocals aside), and each followed and preceded strong versions of the other songs in the set. "46 Days" featured some tight jamming by the band as a whole, as did "Taste", which featured some brief, but inspired open-ended Type II jamming right before the descending riff signifying the song’s end, ala the previous night’s "Harry Hood". The first "Slave to the Traffic Light" of the tour was powerful, however it was overshadowed by the set closer of "Walls of the Cave". Perhaps the most inspired of the five "WOTC" versions, the song moved past the distinct "Down With Disease" jam it usually mimics, into a jam of its own. Trey’s constant harping on a single power chord laid the base for Page to dance on top of, joining Gordon’s thumping bass as the band pushed the song’s limits before landing back in the lyric, which was sung enthusiastically by the entire crowd. As enjoyable as the first set was, the second set started off with a bang, with a nice, strong "AC/DC Bag". "Cities" was nice, and was actually played more uptempo than I’ve become accustomed to hearing it, however by the time the jam came, the band was in full on funk mode, as Gordon’s bass reverberated throughout the venue, sounding as crisp as it would all night. As the jam moved forward in a quiet fashion, the crowd’s clapping became more intense, enticing Trey to nod to Fishman, indicating to stop drumming, allowing the crowd to clap along as Trey, Mike and Page each delicately noodled around an their respective instruments, before Fishman came back in, much to the delight of the crowd. Unfortunately, much to my chagrin, the jam ended seconds later, leaving me with a sense that the band was, for some reason, hesitant to really get "out there", virtually the same feeling I had the night before when "Twist" ended. However, the "Theme from the Bottom" and "Runaway Jim" that ensued more than compensated as each were strong versions, with more unusually placed Type II jamming towards the end of "Theme". However, from that moment on, the set seemed to take a step back, as the band took a quick breather by way of "Thunderhead" and "Sparkle". And the closer of "Pebbles and Marbles", while solid, seemed to suffer from the preceding two songs, as the band was unable to really pick it back up again for a monster set closer. The band quickly came back on stage for "Squirming Coil", which featured some very, very nice interplay between Trey and Page, as both pushed the mini-jam before Page finished the song. A surprising "Character Zero" followed sending the crowd off into the frigid night with smiles on their faces. While not the best show ever, Philly ’03 was a very enjoyable show from start to finish. The crowd had lots of energy and the band eagerly reciprocated, as both groups start to become fully aware that Winter Tour is coming to a close. With an impending Trey Anastasio Band tour coming in the Spring, a sense of the unknown is starting to creep in. But if the remaining shows are as solid as Philly, you'll hear nary a complaint.