, attached to 2014-07-05

Review by solargarlic78

solargarlic78 OK, this probably won’t be a popular point of view, but Trey really sounds rusty on the ole guitar. For a lot of Phish music these days, this doesn’t matter. The best Phish jams are holistic full-band entities. Trey’s “contribution” to these jams (including last night) often doesn’t depend on his “chops” (speed, dexterity, attack), but rather his ideas and communication with the other members. Now, this does matter in intricate composed sections — and last night had an alarming number of mistakes (From “My Friend” to “You Enjoy Myself” and a lot in between). I said in my previous review that I’m “at peace” with flubs — they happen. But, to be blunt, Trey just sounds downright out of practice. His playing is uncertain — he seems to play notes with a half hearted hesitance, rather than the ferocious attack we love. Maybe Trey really doesn’t practice much alone anymore (scales, metronome exercises that any guitar player needs to do with relative regularity to keep their chops) . Who could blame him? Regardless, I would expect his chops to improve over the course of tour, but last night was hard to listen to at times. Onto the music.

This show opened with “Crowd Control.” Not sure what to say about that! :-)

“My Friend, My Friend” is a great song — and even better in the first set (it has cropped up in unwelcome slots in the second lately). This version wasn’t well played. Trey started the chords too early, and missed many of the tough transition lines between chords. Perhaps they needed a few more warm up songs before diving into this beast??

“Scent of a Mule” featured the Marimba Lumina (Sp?) again. You can barely here it on the SBD recording. How was it for those who were there? This is one of those songs that was written in peak-machine-gun-Trey era (‘94) — the end section, which speeds up to an unwieldy tempo, has not been kind to 3.0 Trey. This one was actually one of the better versions I’ve heard.

“Undermined” is one of those songs that sounds like it is a thick groove that emerged out of a “real” jam like many of the songs on Fuego or Story of the Ghost. It is so textured and rhythmic. But, while it sounds “out there”, you might (or might not) be surprised to hear that it employs perhaps the oldest structure in American music — the 12 bar blues. This is a song that is all about the groove and Trey’s chops don’t matter much. His funky licks are more about “taste” than speed, and he really crafted some nice lines in this jam. Fishman starred at the end with lots of ‘start stop’ drum solo/fills.

“A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” really sounds like a song that should always emerge from a long jam in the second set, and then, itself, go into a very long jam (I’m thinking 6/19/04-style). The song itself and the jam is so ethereal and open, I’m not sure why it has become almost exclusively a first set song. Anyway, this version is nice, but short.

“I Didn’t Know” is fun. Is it a cover????

“Foam” is one of Phish’s most technical and awesome songs. This one was played relatively well, but the solos from both Page and Trey seemed to lack “bite” for lack of a better word. In the good old days, these solos would really peak out in a beautiful, soaring way — these ones were really laid back and didn’t seem to build to much.

“Wombat” — Boy this felt longer than 5:23?! I guess “Wombat” is the next “Tube” — a funk song that feels like it should be 10-15 minutes, but actually clocks in at 4-6. The “jam” on “Wombat” pretty much stuck to the structure of the song keeping the “stops” at the end of each progression (where they would say, “Cuddly but Muscular” or whatever). It’s a fun thick groove, this song.

“Divided Sky” — This would be the second of three Junta songs in the first set alone (and there was more to come). This is usually highly welcome news, but this version also seemed to lack “bite.” Trey flubbed a couple sections and he didn’t seem to be able to get that sustain from his Koa Languedoc on the celebratory melody at the end before the jam. The feedback was overwhelming the guitar and it sounded crappy overall. A side note — I wish Trey would always play his original blonde Languedoc that he played in the Jemp Truck set on 12/31/13 — and basically every show from ‘89-’97. The guitar, in my opinion, has far and away the cleanest and most even tone of all his guitars.

“Waiting in the Velvet Sea” was oddly placed here (usually a ballad/breather after a long second set jam). Trey seemed to never get comfortable with his tone/sustain on the solo and it just didn’t reach the melodious heights the Wading chord progression asks for.

“David Bowie” -This was a standard version that stuck to the formula in the jam. The composed section again was rough doings at the end.

Set II — “Carini->Waves” — Anyone else notice that last night’s “Carini->Waves” was the flip of 10/25/13 Worcester “Waves->Carini?” It’s a really nice pairing — dark/evil and bright/flowing. The “Carini” jam very quickly created this funky vamp around 4:30 that the whole band played in unison, and then back to “Carini” territory. By 5:30 we were “out” and (as has often been the case lately) the band modulated into a major key and the jam got “pretty.” Trey found a nice little chordal vamp that was laid back and ethereal, and Page and Mike began to fill in some beautiful textures. The jam kind of stayed in this chill space for the rest of it. Nothing epic, but great textures and patient playing from all members. “Waves” was a nice segue because the preceding jam had a “Wavy” feel to it…just flowing along. “Waves” has two “jam” sections. The first is over a A-D chord progression (but they stay on each chord for a while). The second sometimes doesn’t even happen, but emerges out of the “On the wind, but under water” line and will always be something “type ii”. This “second jam” out of Waves only lasted about 3 minutes, but was a Page McConnell showcase. There wasn’t even much of a beat. Just Trey playing “pretty’ arpeggios and eventually looping some digi-crap stuff, and Page flourishing these gorgeous melodic runs on the baby grand piano.

Now, it kind of feels like this jam would have perfectly gone “->” into “Wingsuit” but it seems like with the new tunes the band has to regroup and count it off. I hope one day “Wingsuit” (and “Waiting All Night”) will emerge from a jam. This was the only song of the night where I felt like Trey’s tone and playing was strong and confident. The end-solo really is amazing.

“Piper” — This was by far the highlight of the night. At first the jam kind of seemed to be going in circles. Trey would play some punchy rhythm chords and a groove would be established, he do something else, and then end up playing punchy chords again. But, at 9:37 Trey finally decides to play some (f’in’) notes (!) and quickly discovers a triumphant melody. Page is simply going off again on the piano in the 10th minute. Trey starts trilling, but comes back to the same melody he found before, and Mike/Fish are really driving a ferocious groove beneath. As Page switches to organ the jam really peaks out nicely around 12:17. After all the laid back/wavy jams before, this really feels like a much deserved peak. The jam then descends into…

“Fluffhead” — Hey who can complain? Remember when they couldn’t/wouldn’t play this song? But, that said, I prefer a 15 minute composed song in the first set. It takes up valuable jamming real estate in the second. This version (again) was not well-played. The start of “Fluff’s Travels” in particular featured Trey just completely dropping out of the mix.

“Heavy Things” — OK weird placement. I actually love Trey’s solo on this song, but lately he’s been giving it up to Leo (like last night). A good move on this particular evening (ouch!).

“Slave to the Traffic Light” — there it is. I still think this was much needed on night 2, but it works as the set closer. Unfortunately, once again, Trey just didn’t seem comfortable. He even flubbed the F-A-G chords before the hard rock section (it doesn’t get much easier than those three chords!). The jam is good as always, but even it feels disjointed and lacks confidence.

“You Enjoy Myself” — Phish often “fakes” a set closer, like playing “Cavern” which you would expect would close a set, and then “Bowie”. But, a “Slave” fake out into “YEM” is pretty damn epic. Once again, Trey just completely falls apart in the fast arpeggio section at the outset (really the first minute of the song is the only hard part). You can hear him yell in frustration on the SBD recording. It is rough. But, the YEM jam is about as cool as YEM jams go in 3.0. I wasn’t there, but did Trey dance at all? As others have pointed out, the Trey-dance has lately substituted for an actual guitar solo in YEM. That is not good. If he danced last night at least there was a real jam to accompany it. And, this jam was actually different and interesting (not your normal Trey build on Gmin). It got weird on this kind of “under pressure” like vamp.

“Suzy Greenberg” is not often the “encore” but when you don’t have “Loving Cup” or “Good Times Bad Times” on hand, you gotta improvise. Given Trey’s playing, this was a good choice because it features piano solos (zing!).

So, two days off before Mann. Let’s hope that maybe Trey will sit in his tour bus and play some scales and metronome exercises. He could use it!


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