, attached to 2003-02-14

Review by FunkyCFunkyDo

FunkyCFunkyDo The first thing I will say about this show is that it is unequivocally underrated. Granted, Winter 2003 if full of some stellar shows that garner most of the attention when casually sifting through this year, and though this show is not one that reaches "stellar" status, it is absolutely filled with many take-home gems, a few of which reach that "all-time" status.

My Sweet One is a appropriate, quirky encore for a Valentine's Day show. A statement opener, not quite, but one fun enough and contextually relevant enough to make all of us smile and know that Phish was present in the moment with us. Cover of the Rolling Stone throws us a curveball 3 minutes into the show - another topical nod to Phish's very first, and very weird, cover on Rolling Stone magazine. This one-two punch was plain old fashioned weird Phish being weird, funny Phish being Phish ... aka Phish being Phish. It got laughs and smiles and cheers from the crowd, and really loosened up the vibe as the meat of the set (and show) crept around the corner...

...did I say crept? I meant bounded! A smoldering Chalk Dust really kicks things off. Clocking in at 9 minutes, this version really takes off. It never ventures from the arena-rock anthem that we love so much, but it certainly doesn't need to. It packs one hell of punch! The crowd is fully energized now, ready for more. Fee comes in next and, in the moment, is met with equally surprised/elated/deflated energy. An odd mix, again, at the time, but as time went on, so did the immensity of this version. Fee is a bustout rarity, and to have Fee played in the first set of the first show of their first tour back was a big statement and nod to their long-lived history... again, re encapsulating the feelings I have been describing where Phish just seems/feels happy to be playing music again. This Fee wastes no time venturing into the most placid, fluid, water-droplet jam. As soon as the outro starts, Fee morphs into an ethereal cloud of misty musicianship, It sounds as though the four members are weaving a song, not playing one. This is my favorite version of the song and should be taken very seriously as "best ever" alongside 7.8.99. Please take the time to listen to this version. Fee slowly fades away into a clean -> Taste. The energy is back.

Knowing we had just witnessed a sublime version of this song, so early in the set/show/tour, the crowd welcomed Taste with great gusto - and the band returned it. This version really packs some focused heat. Nimble muted guitar work from Trey, inhuman rhythms from Fish, tasteful alternations of accents and exclamations from Page on the piano, and Mike providing a textural foundation on which the other three played their parts. This version culminates in a ferocious peak, and even though Trey doesn't quite stick the landing, it is an "A" version.

The next song is Bathtub Gin. Not just Bathtub Gin. My personal, undisputed, create-multiple-threads-(per year)-on version of Bathtub Gin. This Bathtub Gin is fire and purity. It is angelic and inspirational. It is hauntingly beautiful and beautifully divine. It hits peaks which, to my ears are unparalleled for any version of this song, and perhaps, depending on my mood for the current day, unparalleled for any song they've ever performed. The two "spoilers" below are video/SBD recordings of it. I urge you, I implore you, to take 19 minutes in an undisturbed space with good speakers or headphones, close your eyes, clear your mind, and let yourself soar with this Bathtub Gin.



Wow. Right? I mean, wow. That Gin. Just the highest of highs. Add onto that the stretch of Chalk Dust, Fee -> Taste, Bathtub Gin can go toe-to-toe with the best 50 consecutive minutes of music Phish has ever played... what a segment, what a set. Heavy Things could have been played on a recorded for all I care, and seemingly the crowd too (just listen to the eruption when Gin winds down), but still it was well-executed with a pretty Trey-led solo "mini jam." Golgi puts a single, solitary, necessary exclamation point on one hell of a set. Unreal stuff in this first set. I am nearly worn out writing at this point because of how exhilarating and emotional that first set is. Yes, it was my first show, so there is bias. But I believe, truly in my heart of hearts and my ear of ears, that the 2.14.03 Set 1 was something amazingly special.

Possum explodes out of the gates in Set 2. And I mean explodes. Much like (but better than) the 1.3.03 version a month prior, this one hits three stunning, jaw-dropping peaks the likes of which we just don't see anymore. Possums today take on a more Western-y, playful back-and-forth style, whereas Possums from days past took on this rage and passion. This Possum is a must hear for fans of peaks. A deep space Walls of the Cave comes next. Clocking in at 23 minutes, this version patiently lifts off into outer space. Staying true to the WOTC jam for about 14 minutes, they really work as much rock-and-roll out of the song proper before evaporating into some deep, scary, intense space. This version is quite spectacle and should not be taken lightly. Making no attempt to exorcise its demons, WOTC gives us an evil -> into an equally evil Carini. As I said earlier, Carinis in this era and previous eras are not the modulating, major-key drivien jams like they are today. This Carini is gritty and dirty. Dark and evil. Not exactly a must-hear version, but I can guarantee you it scared the crap out of many, many in attendance that night.

Taking a short breath, Anything but Me kills some time before Limb by Limb swoops in and makes an attempt to take off. At this point, I think the band might be emotionally drained from the sheer magnitude of what happened in Set 1 and the first 3 songs of Set 2. They kinda lost that zeal and passion with which permeated the show up to this point. No matter. The version is passable, but not great. Oh Kee Pah was a real treat, regaining some momentum for an awesome late-set ACDC Bag. The Bag was really gaining steam until some dude hopped up on goofballs stormed the stage and took Trey's mic, yelling that he loves Lucy, and happy... Valentines... Day. Sigh. Don't do this shit fans. Seemingly unphased, Phish drips into a suuuuuper slinky little jam in ACDC Bag. It sounds nothing like the Bags we are used to today, and is full of improvisational mastery and originality. I love this Bag. Bag fades unceremoniously into Prince Caspian, and I think that was Phish's signal that they have nothing else to prove for the evening. A prototypical Loving Cup ends the evening the same way My Sweet One started it, heartfelt and appropriate.

All and all, a mind-blowing set 1, a disjointed set 2 with a couple tentpole jams, make this show one that will undoubtedly having you say to yourself, "How did I not listen to this before?!"

Absolutely-must-listen-to-right-now jam: Bathtub Gin
Must-hear jams: Fee -> Taste, Possum, Walls of the Cave
Probably-should-listen-to jams: Chalk Dust Torture, AC/DC Bag


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