Date: Tue, 18 Nov 97 21:18:30 -0700
From: Matthew Miller MatthewMiller@vines.ColoState.EDU
Subject: 11/17/97 review

Review of 11/17/97

McNichols Arena is a relatively awful place to see a concert. The
security is only average in terms of hassles, but the place is
large, old, and has bad acoustics: boomy unless you're right by
the speakers. Also the taper's section was pretty far back (much
more so than Vegas or Salt Lake), so many tapes on less than top
of the line mics will sound like they were recorded from within a
     But these things aren't the band's fault, and they're only
side notes to the review. I'll go right into the music.
     The show opened with "Tweezer" which was not at all
surprising as a call for the night, but it was a--to me happy--
surprise as an opener. Often, whole second sets will get bogged
down with ponderous, circular Tweezer jams that just take
everything over. As an opener, it set a psychedelic, funky
standard for the rest of the night, without taking up too much
space. The jam coming out of "Tweezer" was in the '97 vein of the
Deep Funk. It was quite satisfying, but not jaw dropping
(compared to anything but Phish, it was totally jaw dropping, but
the band sets high standards).
     "Reba" was a welcome surprise: 1st since Alpine Valley. This
was a solid, tight 1st set Reba, but not epic. Enjoyable.
     "Trainsong" was a downer for me because we had just seen it
in Vegas. It's actually my favorite of the more acoustic songs
from "Billy Breathes," but it's kind of a novelty tune, and loses
it's sparkle upon repeated listening. Some of my friends who
didn't go to Vegas thought it was good to hear. Mike has been
singing and playing a notch above where he was last summer in my
opinion, and overall is rounding off the sound in a way that
seems more in tune with Phish's new, more textural and polyphonic
     "Ghost"  This one was also an easy call, and I was damned
glad to hear it. After hearing the giant leaps forward in
intensity that "Piper" has taken in Salt Lake, I was very curious
to see the shape Phish's new epic jam would assume. Ghost doesn't
seemed to have evolved as much as "Piper" but it does sound more
integrated with the rest of their music than it used to. It's
just as funky, though: everyone boogied in a serious way. I
enjoyed it more than "Tweezer"--it was my fave of the first set.
     It was followed by a 20 min.+ jam that explored a huge range
of possibilities for the Ghost groove. This is the new sound of
Phish: multilayered, expansive (to fill the bones!), wah-wahed,
more techno-oriented, less goofy (and arguably less fun), and
more serious. Phish is carving out a fresh new style of
improvisational music that partakes of Rock, Jazz, and Funk--to
name a few sources--but which feels organic and unique to Phish.
     The 1st set closed with "Fire," which was for me a
disappointment. I think Phish sounds too frantic and not soulful
enough for this song. It's pretty predictable as a jam, and lacks
the cool weirdness of other Hendrix covers. Also, many of us were
hoping for a longer song. The first set was 63 min. total.
     As a set, I would say this was slightly above average. If
they would have closed better and played longer, I might give the
set a 7, but as is, I can only do a 6.

Set 2

"DWD" opened the 2nd set in an exciting way. The 2nd set openers
this tour have kicked some serious butt (Timber, Wolfman's, and
Stash), and this was no exception. It was funky. It was complex.
It was almost as dancy-groovy as the DWD from the Went, and it
was far more trippy. Trey took the solo to Mars and back.
     Seque into "Oblivious Fool." This was my 1st time hearing
this tune, so I was quite curious. From what I could tell, the
song is a kind of parody of this guy who wants to be--or thinks
he is--a hero. It was a rockin and rollin kind of song, which
seemed to be the overall feel for the evening. I wasn't that
taken with "Oblivious Fool." To me, it seemed kind of clunky and
less innovative than many of the new songs. It was cool to hear a
rarity like this though. 
     Then came another rocker, "Johnny B. Goode."  I'm not a big
fan of the song, but this one raged, hard.  Trey was THERE at
this point. Visually and sonically, he seemed possessed--
wrestling with demons as he played. In an instant, he can go from
a wailing caterwaul that arc your spine like lightning, to a
"chucka-chucka" hip swinging funk groove that settles you back
down into the ether. But the jam coming out of "Johnny" was the
real heart of the show.
     This jam started in with an exquisitely well timed techno-
groove jam that gradually, beautifully evolved into what some
fans have begun to call the "space jam."  The "space jam" made
its first appearance (to my knowledge) in Salt Lake after "Twist
Around" in what for me was one the high points of ANY playing
I've heard by Trey (but that's another review). In Denver, the
space jam wasn't quite as moving, but it was still gorgeous. I
don't know what effects the band is using for this, but Fishman
mellows out and gets abstract while Page makes atmospheric sounds
on the keys that feel very intimate and emotional. Gordon leaps
around disjunctively, and is relatively quiet. The core of the
jam is Trey's guitar: swirling baroque cocoons of notes that wrap
and unwrap around each other like lovers. The jam is not intense
in a rockin' way at all, but feels like Trey is tapping into some
deep inner reserve.  His notes sound like they are coming from
space (hence the name of the jam, I guess), like they are
travelling a great distance in order to reach our ears. They are
staccato in Garcia-like way, but not at all derivative in spirit.
This jam was my favorite part of the show.
     The seque into "Jesus" was solid. "Jesus" itself was slow
and fat and wailin'--enjoyable, but kind of mellow. I guess I
expected something more upbeat here. No complaints though, this
was rockin' and soulful. Page sang like a champ.
     "Circus" has started to wear out its welcome. It's a good
song, and Trey sings it well, but I've heard it too much, and the
jam doesn't go anywhere. This didn't wreck the set, but it didn't
move it along much either.
     "YEM" really surprised me. I love a good YEM, but they had
played it recently in Vegas, and I expected something weirder
and/or more rare than this to close the 2nd set in Colorado. Or
at least something they hadn't played yet this tour: Bathtub Gin
or better yet, a Forbin/Mockingbird. This was however a really
fun, groovy YEM. It was dancy; it pushed the envelope, and the
groove before the mouth jam was yet more excellent spontaneity.
The mouth jam wasn't that special though, not as intense as the
one from Vegas. Lights on. Where's the Tweezer Reprise?
     Not at the encore it's not. Instead we got our second
Character Zero in four shows: another repeat from Vegas and one
that kind of bored me, honestly. I know everyone seems to think
this song is the shit, and I like it too once in a while. But
it's being overplayed. And it was just too common of a song to
encore with in the last show Phish plays in the West for a fall
tour. A let down as a closer.
     All said, this was a good set relative to Phish entire
career, and average set relative to what they've shown themselves
capable of recently. The jams after "Tweezer" and "Johnny B.
Goode" were excellent though, and made the show interesting and
unique in its own way. Some great moments this night, but not as
consistently excellent as the evening before. I give the show a
     What do YOU think?


Matt Miller


Date:    Wed, 26 Nov 1997 02:14:14 GMT
From:    Mitch Goldman 
Subject: Denver Jamfest 11/17/97

If anyone in McNichols Arena on 11/17 doubted
they were in for a night of serious jamming, the opening
notes of Tweezer put those doubts to rest. Opening
the first set with Tweezer (for only the second time
ever, and the first time since '91) gave the crowd notice
that the second Denver show would *not* skimp on
jams the way night 1 did.

And this 18 minute Tweezer was *fabulous*, much
better than the Gorge or Went versions.  While it wasn't
experimental in the vein of 94-95 versions, it was crisp,
funky, and incredibly jammy.  It resolved to a complete,
nice little *stop*.  With nary a collective breath Phish jumped
right into a fantastic, 14 minute Reba (without the whistling
ending).  The composed section was tight and nearly perfect,
and Trey's soloing on the extended instrumental was
truly mindbending.  After the ending Trey had a quick
song conference with Mike and then started the intro
to Train Song. Thank God! A short tune during which
we could catch our breath, gone after so much intense
improv.  Ghost followed, and folks, this is THE version
of Ghost. 22 minutes long, this funky exploration just
took off and never touched down again.  Going in both
traditional and experimental directions, this Ghost was
pure Phish '97 (or Phish 2000!).  This version just blows
away any of the summer Ghosts.  As it wound down, Trey
said something to the effect of "we'll do one
more song, and then after the break we'll have more jamming
and music for your dancing pleasure" and the band tore
into a ripping version of Fire.  While this was the shortest
first set I saw on this tour, you won't find me complaining
about an hour and 3 minutes of some of the best Phish
I've ever heard.

Another long set break (38 minutes...jeez, what's up
with them these days???) ended with the noise-fest
intro to Dwd, and the set exploded from there.  Disease
went into some serious hyper jamming, and about 12 minutes
or so into the music Trey seemed to be teasing the intro
to Johnny B. Goode.  But like his Wilson tease the night
before, the band just didn't hear it.  Fish seemed *convinced*
that Trey was trying to force Oblivious Fool, so he picked up
that drumbeat and Trey ripped into Fool, probably figuring he
could steer Fishman about as easily as he could move the
building a little to the left.  After 3 minutes of Fool (and the
first really intense version I've heard yet) Trey pulled out the
Chuck Berry intro to JBG and off they went.  But the real
treat wasn't the JBG but the jam that followed. At the point
where they'd normally do the final chorus, the band went
into a quiet and seemingly composed instrumental section
that still sounded remotely connected to JBG.  Not for long
though...this 13 minute segment drifted organically into
a space jam that was reminscent of the post-Twist Around
segment from the SLC show.  This was perhaps the highlight
of the second set; a section of music that got life from Johnny
B. Goode yet became its own completely separate entity
in a totally intuitive manner.  As it wound down Trey hit the
bluesy opening to Jesus, and I must admit to a little disappointment,
having seen this song three times in my last seven shows.
No matter though, because the 14 minutes that followed found
this blues-fest at a peak: Page's initial keyboard solo was
brilliant, and Trey took the music to a whole other plane.
A tentative intro signalled Circus, which continues to transform
itself into a great Phish ballad (and this is a great slot
for reminds me of some other band...;-)  )  I was thinking
that in the tradition of the short second sets on this tour, this
would resolve into the Tweezer Reprise and that would be it.
But Circus ended, Trey yelled something at Page, who
changed positions over to the organ (at which point I knew
it would not be Reprise) and the band launched into a set
closing YEM.  While this version didn't match the length
or epic nature of the Shoreline YEM this past summer, it was
still a fantastic way to end the set.  As usual the creepy vocal
jam was accompanied by Chris's equally creepy white lights.

Hoping for a Coil encore, I was again a bit let down by
the Character Zero selection, but folks, this version *smoked*
for 8 minutes.  A truly apocalyptic rendition, proving once
again that Phish can breathe life into *any* song, given
the inclination.  I expected but did not get the Reprise, but
I shouldn't complain; it's my only unended Tweezer so far.

A brilliant, brilliant show on a hot hot hot tour.  Phish are playing
on the very leading edge of their abilities these days...miss them
in 97 at your peril.  How many days till the New Year's Run??? ;-)

Below is the setlist with the timings in parentheses after
each song, rounded to the nearest minute. And if you've
been tolerant enough to read this far, here's a tape offer:
the first three people to email me can have
the Dallas and Shoreline '97
shows spun for them for blanks and postage.  Only three

1. You have to be a newbie with 30 hours or less
2. you have to spin these shows for at least three other people
3. you have to post at least one paragraph on the subject
"Did Bob Gulotti ruin Dallas?".  One listen to the tape
should make this easy.

Respond today if you're interested. I'll reply to only the
first three people. All other mails will be deleted due to my
horrendous backlog of inbox effluvia.


McNichols Arena, Denver, CO  11/17/97

Set 1 (7:56-8:59)

Tweezer (18)
Reba (14)
Train Song (3)
Ghost (22)->
Fire (6)

Set 2 (9:37-10:54):

Down with Disease (16)->
Oblivious Fool (3)->
Johnny B. Goode (4)->
Jam (13)->
Jesus Just Left Chicago (14)->
When the Circus Comes to Town (5)
You Enjoy Myself (22)

Encore (10:56-11:04):

Character Zero (8)