Sunday, February 23, 2003

Phish Saturday Concert Review


Song list different, jams sound the same

By Chris Varias
The Cincinnati Enquirer

By now, every semiconscious Cincinnatian knows Phish was in town this weekend. The world's No. 1 jam band played Friday and Saturday at U.S. Bank Arena, and both shows sold out in minutes.

The Enquirer ran a review of the Friday show, and now the paper is turning around and reviewing Saturday night, too. Why, you might ask, would there be a need to review back-to-back Phish performances in the same city?

Because, as a fan might answer, every show is different, man!

That notion is accepted as truth, because no two Phish set lists are the same in content or order. Sure enough, not one song from Friday's show was repeated the next night. But names of songs and lyrics mean very little when the thrust of a Phish marathon-length performance is the jamming, and many of the jams sounded interchangeable from one night to the next.

Saturday night's show, counting a 45-minute intermission, was a three-and-a-half hour event, complete with two 80-minute sets (the second of which was all of five songs long) plus encore.

The first set began with a brisk succession of songs - a pair of five-minute tunes. The bluesy "Dog Stole Things" followed the show-opening Zappa-styled mini-freak-out "Sloth."

Things were just beginning. Next came a medley of "Piper" and "Weekapaug Groove." The 20-minute piece exemplified what guitarist and singer Trey Anastasio, bassist Mike Gordon, keyboardist Page McConnell and drummer Jon Fishman do best: keep the jams fast the way the dance-happy fans like it, and keep the lyrics to a minimum.

They sort of earned the right to take it slow and easy on the next song, a dull ballad called "Dirt." But then it was again off to the hippie-boogie races, first with the electrified faux-bluegrass breakdown "Scent of a Mule," a 20-minute number, and later with the set-closing "Sample in a Jar."

The centerpiece of the second set was the 25-minute "Bathtub Gin." Phish's jamming has more to do with the in-and-out weave of the bass, guitar, and keyboard playing than with the supposed virtuosity of any of the musicians themselves. But "Bathtub Gin" was certainly McConnell's moment of the show, as he peppered the instrumental stretches with a mix of pretty piano lyricism and discordant pounding.

E-mail cvarias@enquirer.com

Related stories:
Phish fans flee Westin fire

Phish Friday Concert Review
Phish concert a festival




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