, attached to 1997-11-23

Review by n00b100

n00b100 So if you somehow DON'T think 11/22 is the best Fall '97 show, there are a few acceptable (IMO) alternatives - 11/17, with its incredible 1st set and underrated 2nd set; 12/6, depending on how much one life-altering set overcomes the fact that the other set is *just fine* and nothing more; 12/2, which is gaining steam historically as a great show; and this show, which was officially released for a reason (well, a reason other than "it's the show the day after 11/22"), and was beloved by Fall '97 connoisseurs even before it got the remaster treatment.* I'd take 11/17 out of those choices, but would certainly not fault anyone who goes with this show; it is a bona-fide classic.

The first set doesn't really get going until BEK, a chunky slice of funkiness (w/rocket-fueled Trey solo) that I actually like as a Fall '97-only number, as we all think of Fall '97 as the funk tour and this is as pure a distillation of Phish's style that tour as you could ever want. After Sparkle and a low-key Twist, Stash immediately dives into the shadows and finds a really powerful, claustrophobic groove (Page's piano playing here is phenomenal), Trey's guitar actually taking on a race-car engine tone as the jam reaches its conclusion and opens up to let the music breathe a little. This jam isn't as multifaceted or plain epic as 7/2's definitive version, but it's easily one of the best ever, and the segue into NICU is a true surprise and a great burst of sunshine. The rest of the set is fine (although who doesn't like a 1st-set Fluffhead?), but the BEK and Twist/Stash/NICU make this an upper-echelon 1st set.

Gin opens up the 2nd set, and the Gin stays in Type I (albeit very well-played Type I) territory until things start speeding up, Page heads over to the organ, and Trey starts really piling on the wah-wahed riffs. The jam never gets out there, but the compressed energy is palpable as Trey really takes over and starts cranking out some real nastiness. Much like the Set I Stash, this jam is not for the faint of heart; it manages the neat trick of staying in a certain musical range but exploring every bit of that range for all it's worth. As the jam finally cools down, Page starts playing some high notes, Trey works some loops, and Mike's bass tone starts suggesting DWD.

And that is exactly what we get, a DWD that gives us some upbeat jamming out of the gate, then speeds up and gives Page another opportunity to take the lead, before out of nowhere Low Rider makes an appearance, Trey starting to sing before handing the vocals to Fish, a neat bustout in the middle of what had been a fine jam up to that point. The Low Rider jam then opens up and gets even funkier, then returns to rocking out and works its way back into DWD, just a glorious segue in a year where glorious segues were being handed out like a rapper handing out demo CDs. Bold as Love and Julius close out a tremendous set - maybe it doesn't explore as many areas as other sets, but the jamming here is top-notch and the set flows in a manner to rival any other Fall '97 show.

I would not go as far as to say this show is better than 11/22, but it's definitely the 2nd-best show of the run, and a strong contender for show of the year. The second set, in particular, is intense and should be heard as soon as you can get your hands on it.

* Why not 12/7, a show that can actually boast two consistent sets the whole way through? Because, to me, "consistent" is the key word - there is some astounding music in 12/7, but the actual sets never really go to another level the way 11/17 I or this second set do. I love 12/7 and listen to it constantly, so I hope you can appreciate how hard it is for me to say that.


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