, attached to 1997-08-16

Review by n00b100

n00b100 Try this declaration on for size: you could argue that, pound for pound, this is the greatest show Phish has ever played, even without having the same all-timer set that the show the next night does. Even if you don't want to put it in that heavy hitter class, you could make the simpler argument that this night trumps the more famous next one, again even without the same all-timer set. Just take a look at all the highlights:

- A segue *into* Harpua, closing out the Clifford Ball's version;

- An extended and fiery Chalk Dust (pre-2012 through 2014, when extended CDTs were slowly becoming the rule instead of the exception) leading into an equally extended and fiery Theme;

- A Ghost that slides from its usual '97 funk into a thick and gruesome, plodding '03-style jam before opening up into some brief hose before chugging to a close;

- Your typical average-great '97 YEM (the first four highlights were in the *first set*, mind you);

- An absolutely superb 3-song sequence to kick off Set 2. Wolfman's moves into a very typical '97 funk space (think the 11/17 Tweezer), as Page heads to the organ and Trey plays some spartan notes, before the band moves into a dreamier and contemplative space and closes with a 70's-esque flourish, then picks up steam and segues into Simple, which books along before morphing into a goofy Odd Couple Theme jam (funny how that riff has stuck with Trey throughout the years, like a wackier Streets of Cairo), then grows dissonant and wanders into My Soul;

- A very odd little jamlet, almost sound-checky in its abstract nature, that gives way very naturally into Slave;

- ANOTHER crazy good 3-song sequence to kick off Set 3 (a candidate for their finest ever 3rd set). Halley's moves into a more Page-driven version of the usual Halley's jam before Trey hits on a nasty tone and things get dark and weird, then Fish kicks into a tasty groove and the band lands on a growly and thick blues/almost reggae jam. Cities emerges in this same weird tempo (think more 7/12/13 -> out of Tweezer and less 12/31/14 -> out of Theme), and they crank out a milkshake-thick funk groove, rather like something from the Lemonwheel soundcheck, before picking up the pace and making a natural move into Llama (!), which burns bright before petering out and giving way to Lawn Boy (!!);

- And, finally, a wonderful Limb by Limb that never really breaks free of its constraints, but instead of ending in the usual fashion goes into a swirling and powerful reprise, from which Funky Bitch comes in to end three exceptional sets of music.

The fact that a show this exceptionally strong *isn't even the best show of the year* should be more than enough to tell you that 1997 is, at the very least, one of Phish's peak years. Highest possible recommendation - you skip this show, available in tasty SBD, at your own peril.


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