Phish PNC II Review: The Path Where No One Goes
Wednesday’s Phish show at PNC Bank Arts Center was a major redemption for many fans who were in attendance the night prior. After two consecutive lackluster performances (Bethel 3, PNC 1), many wondered if the magic from those first two nights of tour was just an anomaly.
But last night, the band energized the show from the outset, opening with “First Tube” for the first time since Shorline ’00 (10.7.00). And onward for much of the night, Phish continued to display the willing, adventurous face that we had seen in Bethel. However, due in part to the early curfew, some jams in the second set were not given the chance to come fully into bloom and, thus, potentially great moments were lost. At times, the intent was fully there, and the path was laid for adventure.
I’ve repeatedly said that an obscure opener often leads to good things, and last night was no exception. Throughout the first set, the pace never faltered and we were treated to interesting, well-played versions of “Stealing Time,” “Jibboo” and “7 Below.” The highlight of the set came toward the end in the form of a very outside excursion that emerged from the “Melt” jam. Much of the improv appeared to be led by Fishman as he guided the band through various tempo changes and odd time signatures. Although at times, it seemed more like four musicians soloing at the same time rather than collective improv.
Set two can be summed up quite easily: “‘Tweezer’ into ‘No Quarter.’” ”Tweezer” opened the second and placed Trey’s new tone on display as he let out caterwauling cracks and wails over the groove. While the jam never fully departed, the ending eventually lead into a segment of dark ambience that gave way to the ominous opening notes of Led Zeppelin’s epic “No Quarter.” As usual, Page took on Plant’s vocal duties and even had his mic run through his rotary Leslie organ speaker to capture the effect of the original. Trey nailed Page’s guitar lines, and later teased the lead riff in “Ghost” and “BDTNL.”
But following this segment, Trey again appeared to hijack the jams from his band mates and many songs were cut short. At several points it seemed as though the band was trying to stretch out, but the jam would be aborted for another song rather than venturing further out. “Twist” reached a point of transcendent jamming toward the end, but instead of seeing it through, the opening of “Ghost” emerged. Now, I will say that this segue was smooth and did not seem forced at all, but the lost potential was disappointing. The most frustrating of these came when the long-awaited “Ghost” was aborted for the second “BDTNL” in five shows.
There’s no question Phish has taken the next step, but this inconsistency has left myself and many others wondering.
PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ
Set 1: First Tube, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Camel Walk, Heavy Things, Gotta Jibboo, Wilson > Seven Below > Kill Devil Falls, Axilla > Split Open and Melt, Suzy Greenberg
Set 2: Tweezer > No Quarter, Carini > Piper > Twist > Ghost > Backwards Down the Number Line
Encore: Show of Life > Tweezer Reprise
 Phish debut.
 No Quarter teases from Trey.
Notes: This gig featured the Phish debut of Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter. Trey subsequently teased No Quarter in both Ghost and Number Line.
SOURCE: Busman Bsc1 (Hypers)>HYDRA silver Shorty XLR’s>Fostex FR-2LE(Busman T-mod) @24/96