Perhaps inspired by the nearby ‘L’ train, Phish opened the first of three nights at the relatively intimate UIC Pavilion with a solid version of “Back on the Train.” A standard version of “Rift” followed. Keeping with recent custom, the song-oriented first set continued with a jaunty “Guelah Papyrus” and the more infrequently played “Scent of a Mule.” “Jesus Just Left Chicago” arrived as expected to satisfy the local crowd and as usual Page brought his best Texas hillbilly. Up to this point, the set mostly comes off as workman-like: solid and fun, driving straight down the middle of the fairway.
“Wolfman’s Brother” probably provided the first shot of original jamming of the night. The jam began in the now common “Plinko” vein before unexpectedly, if briefly, hitting more placid waters, with Page layering a calming keyboard wash over it. Soon thereafter, it returned to the familiar “Wolfman’s” peak, but a nice one at that where it seemed like the rest of the band played a game of ripcord turnabout with Trey. The crowd now completely locked in, Trey opted to cool things down with “Anything But Me.” (There was a sign at Tahoe with “Play Anything” on one side and “But Me” on the other, to which one unnamed fan responded that the sign was missing a third side with “Anything But” on it. Was that you JadedVet?)
Next up, “Babylon Baby” – a regular in Mike’s touring repertoire and soundchecked by Phish before Tahoe1 – made its Phish debut. The jam segment to this one had a distinctively “Destiny Unbound” vibe. “Reba” was next and while not as majestic as the SBIX version, the band did finally nail the whistling section for the first time in three recent tries (relatively so, anyway). A rollicking on-campus “Alumni Blues” > “Letter to Jimmy Page” > “Alumni Blues” closed the set on a high note – certainly among the best recent versions.
This set started timidly but really picked up steam during “Wolfman’s” and was consistently entertaining for the balance, mixed by ballads, a debut, a compositional classic and a smoking old-school closer. Great stuff. Fifteen minutes.
“Sand” led off the action @ 10:04 local time and about ten minutes in, Trey and Page began to lead the band into new territory before Fish abruptly assumed the ripcord role and simply stopped playing. A moment or two of of aimless (and percussionless!) jamming later and Trey led the band into “Light.” The jam out of “Light” begins with Mike liberally employing the meatball effect before Fishman again all but disengages leaving the other three to fend for themselves. Fish briefly returned to the conversation but evidently didn’t like what the others had to say, as he dropped out just as soon as he arrived, leaving Trey to transition into “Dirt.”
The always welcome “Waves” rolled over the “Sand” and “Dirt” and washed away the sins of the first third of the set before absolutely melting into “Undermind.” We can, if you’ll excuse the pun, waive the waiting period and safely induct this segue into the Phish Hall of Fame immediately. As usual, Mike proceeded to get medieval on “Undermind,” before the jam assumed a mellower vibe akin to a “Simple” jam.
Thankfully the full arrows continued and “Steam” appeared for the second consecutive show. Though this version didn’t particularly build off of the previous three, Phish did perform the remarkable feat of turning “Steam” into “Fire” to close the set (with Cactus taking over). And thus ended the one-word song title set. Wait, did the first part of this set start off not so strong? I’m sorry, John, I don’t remember.
A five (!!!!!) song “Camel Walk” > “Guyute” > “The Horse” > “Silent in the Morning”, “Harry Hood” encore ended the first night’s festivities (with a bit of extra mustard for “Camel Walk” and “Hood” or, “dragged through the garden,” if you will). The first five song encore in over twenty years... since Amy’s Farm on 8/3/91, in that case split over two encores (before that 10/30/90 had five songs in a single encore)! Almost a third set! Looking forward to UIC2!