, attached to 2014-07-20

Review by DeeBubba

DeeBubba This is my first review for PhishNet, and as a writer (who teaches English to pay the bills), any objective or constructive feedback is always appreciated. Let me also state that I will try to remain objective as well. I will briefly mention that I am not crazy about NI as a venue, and strongly feel that the only reason ticket sales dipped at Deer Creek and Alpine in 2012 is because of LiveNation's stupid oversaturation of the Great Lakes region, thus leading to the current, growing movement to bring Phish back to the Creek and the Valley - I am confident that if LiveNation simply did the proper market research and the band returned to one or both of those venues for 1 or 2 nights, the sales would be there. The oversaturation occurs when LiveNation books Blossom, Riverbend, DTE, 2 nights at Klipsch, and 2 nights at Alpine - just trim it back a bit and spread the dates a little - am I alone in thinking this way? And I am somewhat bothered by the band's apparent willingness to acquiesce to the demands of the insidious LiveNation, especially with the history and affection that they have for the Creek and Alpine. But I digress.....

Floor or Grandstand is a must for NI - I feel very strongly that Phish and LiveNation are really screwing the fans in the so-called "lawn" - I was in it for the 3-setter last year, and it was the single worst "lawn" experience I have ever had, given that you could not even SEE THE STAGE! So I was essentially there LISTENING to a show, which I could have done from home. While I know the chances of the band seeing this review are remote, I do hope that fans are bringing these issues related to the last couple summer tours to their attention. So, like the night of the evacuation last year, I insisted on Floor seats and secured a solid spot Pageside about 45 minutes before they took the stage.

Given the complaints about the rotation this year, I wasn't sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised to hear "Gumbo" open the show - solid, funky version with the old-school piano outro. "Runaway Jim" has never been my favorite so I was glad that they kept it pretty standard. When it was followed by "Tela" I was a bit confused - it seemed an odd choice for early in a show when the crowd wants to get the energy going. Why not "Lizards" instead? "The Line" is not my favorite cut off the new album by any means, but I was impressed with the live version - it has more punch than the studio recording, rocking just ever-so-slightly harder as it plugged along. While "Scent" had some quirky moments of band interplay (Page and the mood lighting), it fails to compare to the "Scent" from 1st night in Chicago last year. I was also a bit surprised that Fish did not explore the Marimba Lumina a bit more. "Gin" was fun, as always, and pretty standard, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one caught off guard by "Silent in the Morning," due to the conspicuous absence of "The Horse." However, it segued into a decent "Maze," making for a nice Rift couplet. The 1st set was rounded out by a very solid "Ocelot" that featured some pretty inspired playing from Trey during the climax. "Walls" was a nice choice to close it out, making for a very solid first set with a nice smattering of song variety.

I knew DWD would open the 2nd set; in some ways the band has become much more predictable the last couple years (I also called the "Zero" encore). Just as it began to aimlessly wander (Mike began playing in the higher registers and the groove was lost), Trey dropped in with the dreaded "ripchord" (new buzzword of Phish tours) to begin a terribly-placed "Winterqueen." I say terrible not because it (like "The Line") is not my favorite new song, but because, as with "Tela", why would you immediately dial back the energy as the 2nd set is just getting started? As confounding as this was, I didn't have long to consider it as "Theme from the Bottom" was played with an energy that indicated the band was getting down to business. At this point the crowd should have been warned to buckle their seat belts.

"Mike's" may have been "standard" in its structure, but this "Mike's" means business; it's a serious "Mike's", hitting hard during the climax and bringing the energy level right back up. "The Wedge" began innocently enough, but this "Wedge" would be taken for a ride. Unusual for a "Wedge"? Yes - but so what? This wasn't noodling, meandering, or aimless wandering. This "Wedge" explored some very bouncy landscapes, toying with "Type II" territory throughout, including a very joyful chord progression from Trey that evoked, to the ears of many, the chords of "Paradise City" - or "Steal My Kisses," depending on your ear. After bringing the jam back around to finish "The Wedge," the band went into "Ghost," which keeps getting better and more interesting since the weak version from early tour. This "Ghost" jammed into almost disco-territory, and I'm not ashamed to admit that, as I boogied, I couldn't help thinking of Giorgio Moroder, or John Travolta dancing to "You Should Be Dancing" (oh how I wish they would cover that song). The Disco Ghost found its way back to a more typical "Ghost" groove, and then "Weekapaug" completed the set and the Mike's Groove suite. Toward the end of this fun "Groove," the band stumbled onto the Disco Ghost himself, acknowledging his presence out there in the wind and rain, before finishing the song and set.

While the "Character Zero" encore may have been predictable, what's not to like about a rocking "Zero" encore? Too many people are way too picky about way too much when it comes to this rotation, repeat, and "bust-out" business. I often wonder if these people aren't sniping away from a comfortable spot on the "couch tour," which in the realm of Phish shows has become a bit of an Ivory Tower. What made the encore unique was Page's sincere, heartfelt gesture to the crowd - speaking on behalf of the band, Page thanked the fans for not only a wonderful 3 nights, but also for allowing them (the band) to do what they love for a living. It was unexpected, thoughtful, and completely genuine, and the Cheshire grin on Trey's face indicated that they all concurred with Page's gratitude.

To conclude, this show is very solid overall, with many moments in the 2nd set ("Wedge" and "Ghost" in particular) that should be labeled as "highly recommended." From a subjective standpoint, it will fall into my rather large "good show" category (towards the top end of that heap), with the 2nd set being right up there with the best moments of this tour (and of 3.0) so far - to give context, pretty much every show I've seen since they reunited has been "good" or better, though I still feel that the best show, opener-to-encore, that I've attended in the 3.0 era remains Blossom from 2011. That said, last night's show in Chicago demonstrates that Phish continues to be one of the best live acts in music.


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