Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tour Opener #2 - February 13th, 2007 London, England

Set 1: Chalk Dust Torture, Wolfman's Brother, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Stash, Walfredo[1], Taste, Waste, Poor Heart, Character Zero, Peaches en Regalia, Love Me[2], David Bowie

Set 2: Julius, Cars Trucks Buses, My Soul[2], Punch You In the Eye, Slave to the Traffic Light, When the Circus Comes[2], Maze > Rock A William[1], Harry Hood, Frankenstein

Encore: Prince Caspian, Johnny B. Goode

[1] Debut.
[2] Phish debut.

Notes: The European tour opener featured the debuts of and Rock A William and the Phish debuts of Love Me, My Soul, and When the Circus Comes.

Setlist from www.phish.net


Following Halloween in 1996, late fall and new years tours had featured a new emphasis on percussive improvisation that was paying immediate dividends, taking jams in entirely new directions. But no one was prepared for what the next year would bring.

In a stroke of genius, the band heads to Europe soon after their monstrous NYE run for their first headlining tour on the continent. Quickly we learned that these new surroundings would be a launchpad for creativity.

While its clear that many phans made the cross ocean journey, on tape the venues sound pleasantly spacious and the band's sound is raw in a fashion that can't be had in larger coliseums and amphitheaters.

As has been noted in many histories of the band, since the very beginning they have been dedicated to constantly improving their sound and their gear. These Europe shows almost have a sense of deconstruction to them, giving a meatier sound with more depth than the hollow caverns of large venues allow.

The first set of their first intercontinental headliner starts screamin' HOT with Chalkdust, the trusty opener. Tons of energy and a nice Trey solo.

After a short but disgustingly funky Wolfman's, we get our first mini taste of '97 funk. Placed earlier in the show than in later years, 2001 features a short ambient intro, tight funk grooving and a nice extended middle section. Though shorter than many 2001's we would come to know and love this fit perfectly into the flow of the set and kept the already high level of energy going strong.

Straight out of peak of 2001 we land nicely in a powerful version of Stash. The audience is coming through loud and clear on this one and you can really get a feel for how small these venues were compared to what we were used to. After some cool outer realm exploration, Trey brings us back to reality and introduces a new song, Walfredo. Though only played on this tour with one other bust out appearance at Vegas 2000, this is one of a handful of songs written by the entire band together. To top it off, the band also rotates instruments.

A wicked version of Taste mellows into a reflective Waste. I love that combo...in either direction.

Poor Heart, Character Zero, Peaches en Regalia, Love Me

Fairy standard versions of classic first set numbers preceded the Phish debut of Love Me (Treat Me Like A Fool), a doo-wop-ey tune, before the familiar clang of the high-hat brought us Bowie.

Always showing up in meaningful shows, this Bowie delivers like many others. We're taken on a few twists and turns before the song peaks flawlessly.

All in all, a nice set. No major signals yet, but its clear that they came to play hard.

Julius, Cars Trucks Buses, My Soul

Always love a Julius opener and this was a great CTB. The debut of My Soul was OK. I'm not a big fan of this song that featured prominently over the last few years of 1.0.

Then they dropped PYITE with a fairly extended opening sequence which led to one of the key moments of this show as it would be a harbinger of what was headed our way.

Seemingly over, the last sounds of PYITE begin to form into an sea of cascading sounds and we have a dark, brooding jam out of nothing. This music was extremely patient.

Perhaps the biggest indicator of a new direction for the band, this was when we began to realize that any tune was ripe for improv at any point.

While unfinished versions of songs like Stash and Fluffhead and extended jams from Tube and Fee are all possible now, this was pretty new at the time.

Literally melting into Slave, we we're treated to a rare mid-set soaring rendition of this classic. Bringing the energy down a little, we were given another debut, a cover which became a late 90's staple When the Circus Comes to Town. Maybe lacking the power of emotion found in later years, this was a well timed break as we geared up for Maze.

Maze is another song that benefited greatly from more percussive playing. Over the next couple of years, this song would be explored to its heights (notably the version on Bittersweet Motel), and this version teased at the possibilities.

Another instrument switch brought us Rock a William, another debut of a Phish penned tune. Though another song that had disappeared from the rotation by the end of '97, the exercise of writing these songs together clearly provided a benefit in terms of communication and ear training.

Once everyone resumed their places, the descending tom beats of Hood filled the room. Always a crowd pleaser, this version was roaring from the start and the beautiful melodies and harmonies of this well orchestrated improv lead us wonderfully higher and higher until we reach the crescendo of the show. And we DO feel good!

A scorching Frankenstein closes the set down. Before leaving, a singing Capsian and the rock and roll standard Johnny B. Goode (played four times on this tour), sent us home.

Following more of a typical pattern for tour opening shows, this one flies under the radar for the most part. Lots of debuts and some inspired jamming, but we all know they were just getting their feet wet.

I think the best thing to take away from this show is the level of creativity and willingness to try anything that permeated the band during this time and was clearly on display.

As the tour progressed we would hear some of the most amazing music our ears ever came upon and one show in particular (3.1.97) that would be shrouded in immortality.

The music created during this Euro Tour was maybe the most powerful display of virtuosity and mastery over their craft that could have ever been imagined and blew new life into music already loved and adored so much.

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