Chicago was an interesting night, and I feel some of my initial comments were taken out of context- so let’s revisit Phish’s stop in the Windy City. Aside from the “Curtain With,” the first set was straight up uneventful- that much is hard to dispute, but the second set presented a whole different conundrum. The concept of flow is so important to a successful set of music. You don’t want to feel like you’ve just been thrown through the musical washing machine, catching chunks music randomly and out of context as they hit you. But that’s kind of what Chicago’s second set felt like.
The intriguing factor of this second set, is that most all of the music is great! What made the show unsuccessful overall was not the lack of virtuoso jamming, but the choppy presentation of the music that could have been artistically outdone by my middle school lunch ladies and their Sloppy Joes. There were several standout jams in the set, but when one randomly ended to start the next, that elusive flow went right down the drain. The “Number Line” was one of the two strongest of the summer; the “Hood” was more unique than most, and Chicago’s second set featured the only “2001” of the tour that didn’t involve a guest. All the elements were there for a great show, but they just didn’t gel.
After the show, I noted this, and thought of a way the set could have been arranged more cohesively, and just for the fun of it, I recreated the set- as best as possible- in the order I think it was “meant” to be. (This exercise is much better accomplished with an iPod playlist.) And if it went down like this, I guarantee people would be talking about the Chicago show a whole lot more. This is not to presume that I know how Phish sets should go more than the band does- but just this once, indulge me. Sure, hindsight is 20/20 and all that, but remember, this is all for fun.
As the “Number Line” got ambient- it seemed the “2001” that had loomed large over The Gorge all weekend was about to drop, merging the futuristic theme the a song that very much represented the band’s future course. But despite all the times the band sidestepped artistic segues into “2001” over the previous shows, the space-funk be Heismaned again, only to stumble awkwardly out of “Wilson” later in the set. Instead the band jarringly dropped into “Carini”- a move that squeaked by on shock value- and the fact that Phish cranked the intensity level way past eleven on on this one, so we’ll leave the initial segment alone. (But that “Number Line > 2001” was begging to come out!)
As the band began to build out of “Carini’s” grungy residue, Trey started chomping away at “Jibboo,” successfully blowing the second segue in a row. But this time, let’s reconsider. Since the band missed their first chance to merge with “2001,” let’s use “Carini’s” outro as the intro to the dance epic- it works perfectly. “Carini > 2001”- now that’s some gritty, urban Phish! Carrying out the peak of “2001,” Trey would then drop the opening rhythm chords to “Jibboo” continuing the dance-floor portion of the show. Finishing a full-throttle groove session in “2001 > Jibboo,” concluding a boisterous opening of the set, everyone would need to catch their breath. Cue “Theme”- a perfect chill-out song after the improvisational fireworks, while still carrying momentum of its own. As soon as the respite is over, Trey would eagerly hit the opening notes to a late-set “Wilson.” But as the band sustained the final note, instead of crashing into a random “Chalkdust,” they would drop into the drum roll of “Harry Hood,” forming an old-school one-two punch. And this “Hood” is no slouch. With impressionistic painting by Trey and a diversion into minor chords before the peak of the jam, this version was among the best of leg two. Just when you think the set is over, the ever-present “Coil” would still unfold to gracefully to close the set.
Call me crazy, but that would have flowed much more fluidly than the mix-tape the band dropped in Toyota Park. And a rocking double encore to close things off- “Chalkdust,” “Loving Cup”- what a beautiful buzz! Don’t take this too seriously, and if you thought Chicago was the best show of tour, more power to you. But if you’d like to listen to Chicago’s second set the way it could have gone down, sit back, hit play and relax.
Jam of the Day:
“Split Open and Melt” 8.10.97 I
This is one of the most unique and ethereal “Splits” ever played- and one that flies completely under the radar. A true gem from the cornfields of Deer Creek in ’97!
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
3.1.97 SBD Markthalle, Hamburg, GR < Torrent
3.1.97 SBD Markthalle, Hamburg, GR < Megaupload
A pre-FM SBD source of the now-classic show immortalized on Slip, Stitch, and Pass.
I: Cities, Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Down With Disease, Weigh, Beauty Of My Dreams, Wolfman’s Brother > Jesus Just Left Chicago, Reba, Hello My Baby, Possum
II: Carini, Dinner and a Movie, Mike’s Song > Lawn Boy > Weekapaug Groove, The Mango Song, Billy Breathes, Theme From The Bottom
E: Taste, Sweet Adeline