A Phishy Halloween
October 31, 1995
First Appeared in The Music Box, January/February 1996, Volume 3, #1
Written by John Metzger
This past Halloween found Phish all dressed up in their best costume, ready to celebrate. Fans flooded the Rosemont Horizon, and amazingly security was calm and peaceful, joking with the crowd on the way into the arena. Could this be the same place that went out of their way to bust Deadheads? For whatever reason, they seemed to be enjoying the weirdness, which so closely resembled the scene surrounding the Grateful Dead. Many people dressed in a wide array of costumes, my favorite being a very shaggy llama.
Phish took the stage by force, and more than summed up the level of intensity in the air by breaking into Icculus to open the first set! Trey quickly built this to a feverish pitch as he refused to say the word Icculus to conclude the tune. As if this wasn't enough, a Divided Sky delivered a mighty blow to the minds of all. This was certainly going to be a Phish show to remember, and there was plenty more to come. After all, this was only the beginning of the first set!
There were two songs during the first set, Free and Guyute, which I was not familiar with. Neither appear on any tapes that I own, nor have I heard them in concert. Perhaps it was they way that the band played them on this particular night, and perhaps it was their way of hinting at what was to come. There was no doubt in my mind that these sounded like Phish playing the Who. Prior to this, I had been thinking that perhaps Phish might play a tribute to their roots, a tribute to a sorely missed guitarist extraordinaire. Sure, the comparisons were already out of control, but it is how Phish started. However, hearing Free and Guyute back to back, played the way they were played, put me in the mood for The Who. The set concluded with yet another killer version of Run Like an Antelope. Trey Anastasio's guitar screamed out of control as a swirling carnival ensued. Given Rosemont's usually early curfew, and the intensity and song selection during the first set, I thought perhaps this would be it for Phish. They would don their Halloween costume, cover their album of the year, and move on to other places. Little did I know, the band was just warming up.
The band took the stage for the start of set two, the moment we'd all been waiting for. Last year, the band pulled off a decent rendition of The Beatles' White Album. It was a good attempt, but on tape it just doesn't quite hold up to the actual album. How can anyone compare to The Beatles? It was a good try, but it came off as more of a novelty item - an "it was cool to be there" thing. What was lurking in their minds? What would they play? Of course they had no intention of letting us in on their secret all that quickly. At first they toyed with us, teasing Beat It, as Anastasio moonwalked across the stage. The horror of that thought is almost too much to bear! Then it started, waves crashing, voices echoing. "Is it me for a moment?" This was it. What a tremendously delightful surprise! Quadrophenia!!!!!
I grew up on this one. I could not believe they were actually going to pull this one off. But yes, it really was happening. And play it they did. Nearly perfect, with Anastasio and Page McConnell trading vocal bits. The Giant Country Horns even popped up to cover the horn bits from the original Who recording.
I guess the only disappointment was that the crowd just didn't seem to recognize the album. Many at least recognized it as a Who album, but sadly they thought it might be Tommy. This frightens me even more, as it only proves how much great music is sadly overlooked, and more than explains why such bad music like the Dave Mathews Band or Liz Phair manages to become popular. The public just doesn't know any better!!! Well perhaps Phish's annual Halloween performance will help to shed at least a little light on some of the great recordings of the past.
In any event, Quadrophenia was here in its entirety and received a royal treatment from the band. They even went to such lengths as to record vocals for The Kids are Alright and I am the Sea to bounce around the arena mimicking what the Who did on their original recording. The grand finale was in the usual Phish style of insanity and featured Fishman out in front, flailing his arms in the air, singing Love Reign O'er Me — a very strange picture indeed! Trey sat in on drums, something he had been dying to do all night, and had a huge grin on his face as he attempted to match the antics of Keith Moon.
As if this wasn't enough already, the band took a short break only to return, not with an encore, but with an entire third set. The highlight was a truly inspired, insane, never-ending, meltdown version of You Enjoy Myself. This monster went on for over 40 minutes and included a percussionistic break about midway through, followed by one scary, spacy Halloween jam. A sweet cover of The Beatles' A Day in the Life, a southern-fried Jesus Left Chicago, and a Giant Country Horns-tinged Suzy Greenberg capped off the killer set.
The encore was yet another twist and turn on a night full of Halloween treats. A mini-stage was set-up complete with a small drum set. Phish returned only to launch into My Generation, which concluded in classic Who-style by a complete destruction of all things musical. Amazing! Who could ask for anything more?
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Copyright © 1995 The Music Box