, attached to 1997-11-28

Review by andrewrose

andrewrose I thought I would take the occasion of the fifteen year anniversary of this show to write a proper review, considering it was the only one I witnessed on the historic tour, and my first real venture to go see the band indoors. I was 17, and had just had my mind blown at the Great Went a couple months prior. After being initiated at 13 at a home-town show in Montreal in 94, and making my way across the border to the Clifford Ball in 96, 97 was the year I really got deep, and never went back. I had loved the band since first discovering them in 93 or so, but my youth, a relative inability to get to shows, and a general lack of exposure to what it was all about made for a more gradual descent into true fandom. I imagine that’s true for a lot of us in some capacity, especially in the early days of the internet. But it was the internet in ‘97 that really helped move things along. I still remember signing up for my first Hotmail account, and reading about these new songs the band had debuted in Europe: Ghost, Piper. Phish.net, Andy Gadiel’s Phish Page and RMP became daily destinations, and I was really doing my research, accumulating tapes. It was an even bigger pain for fans in Canada who didn’t have access to US stamps for B&Ps (that blanks and postage, kids!). You had to find US cash and send it instead, while sheepishly apologizing for bending the rules ever so slightly. No one seemed to mind much.

So I convinced a friend to finally come see Phish with me, who though also my age was a Deadhead holdout that insisted Phish could never be as good (even though he had never seen either band). We scored a mediocre pair of tickets from Ticketmaster, which didn’t seem easy. And we only opted for the one show, being fairly certain that weren’t going to get clearance from the family for an extended stay. Family drove us down from Montreal, through a snowstorm, and dropped us off.

What can I say? It was magic. That first indoor show where you finally feel like you’re really on the inside of something special. And a perfect Curtain opener. There’s a time in everyone’s fandom where you’re only vaguely aware of some of the rarer songs, and when they appear they just knock you off your feet. It was like that. The YEM that follows is still, to-date, one of my all-time favourites. The jam is the perfect marriage of Fall 97 funk and Trey-led YEM-solo vision. The whole stretch right up through the Crosseyed & Painless tease is flawless. It’s time-capsule-worthy Phish. The vocal jam segues right through into I Didn’t Know, leading to the first Henrietta appearance of the tour. That’s as strong and varied an opening sequence as any other show on the tour, which is certainly saying something.

The rest of the show doesn’t quite have the same caliber of flow as some the tour’s big-hitters (there’s almost no segues, for one), but there are still a ton of stellar moments. For one thing, the Black-Eyed Katy and Ghost are two of Fall 97s biggest, fattest funk-machines. (There’s even some speculation that the Ghost is the first instance of the full-on start/stop funk jam that they’d later revisit, most notably in the Dayton and MSG Tube). The whole band is incredibly locked in all night, and when they let loose and counter that with some sloppy funk it’s just perfect.

The other highlights are more of the tightly-executed in-the-box type variety: a menacing Maze and a gnarly Theme from the Bottom in the first set have their second set foils in Timber and Limb by Limb, respectively. The Timber in particular is a beautiful exercise in restraint, with Trey weaving in and out of major territory ever so slightly. And there’s the Slave.

My friend who I had brought with me still mentions it almost every time we’re at a show together. He was transfixed on Trey all night, a goner from the get-go. And when we talk about this Slave he mentions this one flailing “hippie” we was watching as the band dropped into it. Something about his enthusiasm, the moment; it stuck, it’s forever ingrained in his brain. “I’ll never forget that hippie,” he always says. It’s a great Slave, but those personal moments are really what puts it over the top in the end, aren’t they?

The moment I always remember from this show also has to do with another fan. After the show let out we were walking down those steep outdoor concrete steps of the Centrum that I’ve happily visited many times since. This slightly older guy, a little dirty but with-it and somewhat wise-seeming asked us if we had seen any other shows on this tour. “No,” I replied, “just this one.” There was nothing assuming about his tone, or condescending or anything. He just had a bit of a twinkle in his eye and kind of looked passed me and back at me and smiled and said “yeah, it’s been pretty great.”

Now if we were wiser we would have stuck around for the hour long Runaway Jim the next night, but instead we hopped on a bus to visit family in Boston for US Thanksgiving. I think we went to see Alien: Resurrection in the theatres that night. No big deal. We scored mail order tickets to all three nights at MSG a couple weeks later.


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