, attached to 2003-02-16

Review by FunkyCFunkyDo

FunkyCFunkyDo This is an exhilarating and confusing show to revisit. It contains an inarguable top-5 Piper ever, and depending on your taste and/or mood, the finest rendition ever. It also contains a lot of filler material and a sub-60 minute second set. But it also contains a 20-min Bowie show opener. As you can see, we are dealing with quite a polarized show today, so let's start where Phish started!

David Bowie creeks and groans as the lights go down. Then tension builds. The stage is set. Are they really one-upping their previous two shows' openers? I mean say what you will about My Sweet One/Cover of the Rolling Stone and Llama ... but there's no denying the mood they respectively set for the evening. David Bowie upstaged all. This Bowie is demonic. Pure evil. Now you might be saying, "Hey Funky, aren't most Bowies kinda evil?" Why yes, yes they are. But this is especially evil. Like the shopkeeper in The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror III kind of evil... potassium benzoate ... that's bad.
[Spoiler]
When you hear people speak of the darkness of 2003, this Bowie embodies it. A near 14 minute jam segment touches on all sorts of darkness, hits the depths of Moria summoning the Balroq when Fish crashing is splash cymbals, and then climbs out to daylight on the onset of the Catapult lyrics. I am particularly fond of how they really swing from dark into light post-Catapult... ch-check it out. You get your full show's money worth with this version. Do. Not. Miss. It. Unfortunately, to my ears, that is the standalone highlight of the first set. Horn is well played, although not *perfect* (persnicket'd) and the same can be said for Guyute. Round Room reaches 12 minutes, but for me personally, is a rather boring jam. It just kinda loops and repeats, as if the band isn't quite sure which musical direction to take the song: jazz? space? dark? Now, some people love this Round Room - perhaps due to its overall scarcity and the fact that this one is the one true jammed version to date - but it just doesn't do it for me. Golden Lady was a fun cover, but played a little half-assed in my opinion. This Stevie song, I think, could be crushed by Phish the way Boogie On is. But this version is lackluster and kinda thrown together, it doesn't feel very rehearsed. Poor Heart gives a little kickstart to the set, but too little too late. Pebbles drops in the closing slot of the set. It is a rocking version for sure, but pretty straightforward. All and all, this set lacks flow and lacks any re-listen material after the monstrous Bowie. Still, that Bowie... wow.

Set 2 kicks off in the same fashion that Set 1 did ... growling and groaning to life. A good sign indeed. This Disease rockets into the stratosphere of rock, really packing a punch and about 3 minutes of type-2 material before a really seamless, super clean segue into Seven Below. I love this segue. Seven Below features a nifty, nimble jam highlighted by Trey. Mike never strays from the studio Seven Below bassline, but he doesn't need to, as he is laying the foundation for Trey (and Page) providing a peppy, spunky jam. Seven Below returns into the DWD theme and really sets the arena ablaze. Much like Bowie, this was 20-minute chuck of must-hear music to open the set. Anything but Me allows all of us to catch our breath before one of the highlights of the year, the decade, and the song itself comes to fruition. Piper. This Piper. Whoa. I don't have the musical training or lexicon to describe how tight, refined, exploratory, giggly, jaw-dropping, exhilarating, dancey, fancy, and fun this Piper is. I don't even know where to start. Do I start at the end to the DWD reprise? Or the super-giggle inducing Mike/Fish breakdown culminating with Fish on the woodblocks? Or Trey's triumphant, cathartic chording in the middle section breakdown? I don't even know. Do yourself a favor, right now, and listen to this Piper. It is a 10/10. 100%. A+ version of the song. To add victory to accomplishment, the Makisupa that follows is downright funny. Yet another Mike/Fish breakdown is pure hilarity. I LOVE Mike's work and I LOVE Fish's cymbal/snare work even more. This Piper -> Makisupa is what IT is all about. It is for jams like these that we travel, save, scrap and scrounge to get our butts inside the doors. Pure awesomeness. Even though we are a mere 50 minutes into the set at this point, we really don't need much else. Well, given the choice hell yes we need more music, but at this point, f*** it, Phish just hit grand slam. Character Zero is a victory lap. I will not mention the encore because we will all be worse off for it.

So as you can see, in this particular situation, the parts are greater than the whole. The show as a start-to-finish unit lacks some flow, but it contains two absolutely historic versions of two songs. Take that as you may, but do not skip over this show... especially the second set!

Must-hear jams: David Bowie, Piper -> Makisupa Policeman
Probably should listen to jams: Round Room (not that I enjoy it, but so you can hear the banding actively trying to grow the jam), Down with Disease -> Seven Below -> Down with Disease


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