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Rocky in Dixie: Charlotte Recap

Posted 3 years ago by pzerbo - 22 comments Link: http://phi.sh/b/4dfce108

Phish kicked-off the final weekend of the first leg of their summer tour in Charlotte, a venue that has been host to notable past gigs, including the stellar 7/25/03 performance with an epic “Harry Hood,” and the “Fuck Your Face” mega-bustout last summer (7/2/10). Following a two-night run of shows in Georgia that included spectacular highs (6/14Bathtub Gin,” “Light Up and Leave Me Alone”) and a perplexing, flat performance in the face of a dramatic thunderstorm on 6/15 that provoked a deluge of commentary, how would the band respond? Roll tape!

The first “Mike’s Song” show opener since Coventry got things started in fine fashion (after Trey recalled the song’s proper key) and instead of getting fancy, we are offered a crisp “Mike’s Groove” with “I Am Hydrogen” > “Weekapaug.” The set then settles into an uneventful yet fine groove with standard renditions of “Bouncing,” “NICU” (“Leo’s House!” instead of “Play it, Leo!”) and “Sample.” The first major treat of the night is up next: “Colonel Forbin’s” > “Fly Famous Mockingbird!” Settling in to a once-a-year appearance schedule, Trey said that “I’m not going to give it away, when I’m in this part of the country, but I think you all know who this is … it’s the Famous Mockingbird!” referencing the shirts that both Trey and Mike were wearing with the image of local musician David Mayfield. Trey and Mike had apparently utilized the off-night on Thursday to visit The Evening Muse in Charlotte’s NoDa arts district, where David was performing. More on David, later.

The always enthusiastic “Axilla” is next, followed by the improvisational highlight of the first set, an excellent “Wolfman’s Brother” with classic type-I jamming featuring Trey riding the wave and crushing the solos, great stuff! The set is rounded out by a spirited “Scent of a Mule” and the increasingly frequent set closer “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan.” The greatest first set of the tour to date? Not likely, as there is some stiff competition (Bethel2 jumps to mind), but there is a lot to love here. A “Mike’s Groove” opener, solid performances of classic tunes in this lineup of all-Phish originals, the always-hoped-for but infrequently-played “Forbin’s” > “Mockingbird” and a tight improvisational excursion in “Wolman’s,” this first set has something for even the most discriminating Phish fan. Awesome. We’ll be back in exactly fifteen minutes.

After the short break (not the mythical fifteen minutes, but not too much longer) a bright, clean “Backwards Down the Number Line” opens the second set. This song has in three short years ensconced itself into the pantheon of classic Phish songs and, repeats be damned, they could play this song almost every night and leave fans still wanting more. What is shaping up to be the improvisational king of this tour – don’t miss the versions from Great Woods and MPP1 – “Rock and Roll” follows. At the six-minute mark we are led on a melodious journey into pure type-II, and in a manner entirely removed from any of the three previous performances on this tour. In a brilliant setlist call we are next treated to the 100th performance of “Ghost.” By no means an “all-time jam,” this offering was nevertheless miles ahead of the truncated PNC version, providing a clear path to the heart of Phish’s improvisational greatness. This three-song opening sequence is, in a nutshell, why so many of us keep coming back, show after show, year after year. Bravo! “Free” is next, a choice that keeps the energy and spirits high, followed by yet another sublime, standout “Reba,” its first appearance in a second set since Festival 8.

Then... the bomb drops. “Icculus.” Trey launched into the narration: “There is something about playing in this venue. Last night, Mike and I went to NoDa. And let me tell you, we met a lot of nice people. But, the thing is, as nice as these people were, there was sort of something missing. So, before we leave, I just want to remind everyone, to read the fucking book! The book! That’s right, that’s right, I really don’t know what else to say other than that. Except that, this book, this particular book, was written by an amazing man, let’s see if we can get him up on the screen here, can we get the amazing guy up on the screen?” (a photo of the David Mayfield shirt both Trey and Mike were wearing hovered ominously on the venue’s big screens) “Ah, yes! This man, this man has the answers. Some of you are probably having problems in your life. Life can be tough, you know? But this man, this man has all the answers. So someday, when you’re ready to step up into the next realm of living, the higher realm, when you are ready to live in peace and tranquility, when you are ready to leave all your worldly problems behind.. this man, that man right there, the rest of your problems, he will take you to the promised land. All you gotta do is read the book! Read the book! Pick up the book! Open the book! Open it, open it, open it, it’s by that guy, right there, he wrote it for you people, but you won’t read it! Open it for God’s sake! That book is written by, is written by, is written by the great and knowledgeable.. the Helping Friendly Book is written by the great and knowledgeable... Icculus!” Must have been some night out! Afterward Trey noted that “I love that song.” Us, too, Trey. Us, too.

The fun continues as the band launches into “Hold Your Head Up” and the entrance of another man of both great and questionable knowledge, Fishman, assumes center stage and starts into an introduction-exchange with Page before opening up Syd Barrett’s classic “Bike.” “What the fuck were the words?” Who cares?! Good times, Fish! The set then settles back into more standard but still excellent fare with an “extra mustard” “Chalk Dust Torture” and a “YEM” that stuck to the 3.0 script but is always welcome by fans of all ages. A lively and fun “Wilson” > “Loving Cup” encore rounds out this exciting, fun-filled performance that beams enthusiasm and vitality.

What a great show! Even Hall of Fame hitters go through minor slumps, so it is heartwarming to see our lovable heroes go out and absolutely slay a show after the mini-funk of the Camden -> Alpharetta run. “Nostalgia Act?” Not on this night. This gig will not threaten any of the band’s all-time epic performances due to the lack of a single signature improvisation, but it has basically everything else you could want and clearly stands alongside Bethel2, Pine Knob and Blossom as a candidate for best show of the tour – personally, I think you have to give this one the nod – and one that is likely to find a place in many “top 10” lists of the post-comeback era. Raleigh is up next, an old-school shed and the home of one of those all-time Phish performances (7/22/97). Let’s hope they keep pushing the rock uphill!

Comments

bertoletdown Phish.net Staff Reply
bertoletdown Nice job on this review. Last night was a grin-inducer. As I was listening to the Free, I got word that my best friend's wife had just delivered their long-awaited baby girl.
Score: 0
ScottyB Phish.net Staff Reply
ScottyB Nice job, Phillip. Thanks for transcribing the complete Icculus narration. Glad to read about them having so much fun on stage.

Throughout the tour there were many times when Trey didn't do such a hot job leading his bandmates in jams, often cutting things short just when the improv was getting good. Ghost was the exact opposite situation. Anastasio took control of the jam with authority, seemed to have a clear vision of what he wanted to accomplish and executed to near-perfection. The peak of the Ghost jam was marvelous with some of the first "jaw-dropping" riffs of 2011. Phish hasn't had a problem generating energy this year, so it was nice to use them harness that energy the way they did during last night's Ghost.

Only quibble is that I must say I'm not sure why the Merriweather shows - which imho each featured better first sets than Charlotte - are lumped in as being part of this "slump" you feel Phish went through. Those performances featured creative setlists, scorching guitar work from Trey, a mighty display of creativity from Page, one of the few "fun" encores since Hampton and so much more. Do I wish there were more jams and did the Alaska and BDTNL nearly kill the final set? Yes, but if those two shows were judged for their merits outside of falling in between Camden and Alpharetta, I don't see how they were below-average Phish gigs.
Score: 1
pzerbo Phish.net Staff Reply
pzerbo @ScottyB said:
Only quibble is that I must say I'm not sure why the Merriweather shows - which imho each featured better first sets than Charlotte - are lumped in as being part of this "slump" you feel Phish went through.
Thanks for the kind words, Scotty. I agree that of the five shows I described as a "mini-funk" that the MPP gigs had more to offer than did Camden and Alpharetta (and especially Alpharetta2). Every one of those nights offered something of value to be sure. Perhaps I put too much weight into extended improvisation; perhaps my standards for the band are too high. But outside of the highlights mentioned in the previous recaps – they were certainly there – those five shows sort of peaked out at "average." Just one person's opinion, but, yes, I call a "below average, average, below average, average, below average" run of five shows a mini-slump. Good times to be had at all, no doubt, every show worth every penny. Just calling 'em like I hear 'em.

In any case, as always, I'm looking only forward. Much like the beloved Red Sox who so many wanted to bury the first few weeks of the season – and I'm looking right at you :-) – when you comeback with sustained excellence and ascend into FIRST PLACE, the mini-slumps fade into distant memory. Hope the band keeps it up tonight for the Raleigh people! Cheers.
Score: 3
ScottyB Phish.net Staff Reply
ScottyB Everyone loves a winner :) Very interested to see which band comes out for the final two shows.
Score: 0
joechip Reply
joechip Nice writeup @pzerbo. Glad to see that faith has returned to "jaded vet" nation much as it has to Red Sox nation. Looking forward to observing a strong finish to leg one from the couch as I attempt to heal my broken ankle for the Ball.

Think it's worth noting that Fly Famous Mockingbird was an extremely clean version technically speaking, the tune has given the band (trey) fits in the past for sure and it's very impressive IMO given how rarely performed it is.

Just got through set one, very excited to dig into the improvisational red meat here.
Score: 2
Jpm60621 Reply
Great recap Phillip... This was an awesome show. I had as good a time at this show as any I've been to (roughly 50 from the late 90's). I loved the song selection and the jams and transitions between songs. The energy from the boys and from the crowd was awesome.

Jim
Score: 1
swimtofirenze Reply
I really thought MPP 1 was a ton of fun (streamed still), but not great musically. Night 2 was weak all around though. I really felt as though something was lacking.
Score: 0
bertoletdown Phish.net Staff Reply
bertoletdown @joechip said:

Think it's worth noting that Fly Famous Mockingbird was an extremely clean version technically speaking, the tune has given the band (trey) fits in the past for sure and it's very impressive IMO given how rarely performed it is.
Completely agree. Mockingbird is beautiful and tight.
Score: 0
Home_Slice Reply
Phenomenal critique! I was there last night and must have leaned over to the friends I was with a half dozen times when there was a break between songs and said, "this place is buzzing!" The crowd's energy took a crisp performance to the next level. One for the record books IMO!
Score: 0
nichobert Reply
nichobert I don't why MPP would be lumped in with the nostalgia act slump either. The last set of MPP had more 3.0 songs than old ones. Not only that, but they whipped them into one of the most cohesive sets of the summer. There wasn't a single overriding highlight, but everything but The Wedge had some improv, even the Loving Cup got a little extra juice sprinkled in it! I'll probably listen to that as an entire set more often than anything from this run so far outside of the first 2 Bethel shows.
Score: 0
weekapaugrooven Reply
weekapaugrooven definitely one of the best of the tour. I'd agree top ten for 3.0 But to say MPP1 and 2 were off nights I don't agree with. I was there both of the MPP nights and even though night one slightly lacking, there was some real high points. And MPP2 was killer in my opinion. Boogie on (heavy on the mike), JJLC... you don't get that everyday. The second set didn't disappoint, steam was nuts, not to mention C&P. The Makisupa encore was the icing on cake. Not one of the best (50+) shows I've seen, but definite highlights and good vibes all around.

- Tela's overworked Multibeast, Marco.
Score: 0
deBebbler Reply
deBebbler @swimtofirenze said:
I really thought MPP 1 was a ton of fun (streamed still), but not great musically. Night 2 was weak all around though. I really felt as though something was lacking.
It certainly wasn't tone-deafness. They had that in spades on #2.

Great recap. Charlotte looks like a show to acquire.
Score: 0
pzerbo Phish.net Staff Reply
pzerbo @nichobert said:
I don't why MPP would be lumped in with the nostalgia act slump either. The last set of MPP had more 3.0 songs than old ones. Not only that, but they whipped them into one of the most cohesive sets of the summer. There wasn't a single overriding highlight, but everything but The Wedge had some improv, even the Loving Cup got a little extra juice sprinkled in it! I'll probably listen to that as an entire set more often than anything from this run so far outside of the first 2 Bethel shows.
Respectfully, you are clearly reading the phish.net blog (which is awesome, it is great to have new voices engaging with intelligent thoughts) but you may perhaps confuse things said by different people about different shows. I never said MPP2 was a "nostalgia act" rather that, based on the second set, that the show as a whole was, indeed, part of the "MINI-slump/funk." In fact (and you could look it up, in the recap for that show on this blog) I was hopefully clear about my appreciation for set I and the encore from MPP2. I wasn't especially fond of MPP2 II, but because it had "high viscosity" (bad flow), almost no improvisation, etc. [The Good Wife: "In your opinion?" Yes, your honor, In My Opinion. /The Good Wife] It was, in my humble opinion, both poorly conceived and poorly executed. But not a "nostalgia" set.

If you think differently... awesome. Whether you were enjoying it live and/or on the recordings, if you were enjoying it, that is all that matters.

Cheers.
Score: 1
MrJones Reply
MrJones great recap.

This show is a great example of the fact that they seem to be having tons of fun on stage this tour.

Of course that is not always going to translate into a great show but this night, it was. There was a little something for everyone in this show.
Score: 0
schwitze Reply
Great review, solid show-- wondering why I haven't seen any mention of what I am quite sure was a Mind Left Body Jam arising out of the Rock and Roll in set 2. I'm fairly certain after re-listening that it is there. I'd like to hear someone with more expertise than me either confirm or disconfirm.
Score: 1
bertoletdown Phish.net Staff Reply
bertoletdown @schwitze said:
Great review, solid show-- wondering why I haven't seen any mention of what I am quite sure was a Mind Left Body Jam arising out of the Rock and Roll in set 2. I'm fairly certain after re-listening that it is there. I'd like to hear someone with more expertise than me either confirm or disconfirm.
Towards the end, Mike, right? Yeah, will re-listen.
Score: 0
Kurtzboy Reply
Kurtzboy Honestly I've disagreed with most of .net's recaps, but not this time. Great recap of a great show.
Score: 0
joechip Reply
joechip @schwitze said:
Great review, solid show-- wondering why I haven't seen any mention of what I am quite sure was a Mind Left Body Jam arising out of the Rock and Roll in set 2. I'm fairly certain after re-listening that it is there. I'd like to hear someone with more expertise than me either confirm or disconfirm.

I heard this also, posted it in a thread in the forum yesterday, I definitely feel they were trying to coalesce around the MLB theme but never quite got there.

@Icculus also pointed out to me a subtle but distinct Love Supreme tease from Mike right before this section. Thought that was neat to hear as a possible nod to the DTE DWD from the other week...Regardless, R&R is on a hell of a run with three straight super creative versions.
Score: 0
BrotherEarth Reply
BrotherEarth Great review, my highs and lows would be slightly different, but it is clear we saw the same show.

Cheers!
Score: 0
Jaybird Reply
"The first “Mike’s Song” show opener since Coventry got things started in fine fashion (after Trey recalled the song’s proper key) and instead of getting fancy, we are offered a crisp “Mike’s Groove” with “I Am Hydrogen” > “Weekapaug.”

Great review - but I would like to note that the reason Trey did not have the right key for Mike's song is because he had my sign in his mouth. I made a sign that said "Mike's House". He took it from the pit and put it in his mouth while he played the first few notes. He then took the sign and put it between him and Mike until the end of Weekapaug. Then Mike moved the sign to in front of the drum set. It took me about 35 mins after the show to get the sign back from a stage tech who was going to throw it away. But I got it back - with Trey's bite mark and all :)
Score: 1
tubedss Reply
tubedss Mpp wasn't bad at all.
Score: 0
djmeneses Reply
Great review. IMHO this show was, specifically 2nd set is in the top 5 of best sets I've seen since 1994. The musical tapestry that was weaved was fantastic. the band controlled the emotions of the crowd the entire time and the fearless improvisation was a thing of beauty.
Score: 0

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