Phish Beat the House

Thomas & Mack Center - Las Vegas

November 13, 1997

First Appeared in The Music Box, January 1998, Volume 5, #1

Written by Mike Indgin

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On November 13, 1997 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Phish did it again. They took it to the next level, and made me a Phish Head renewed. Trey is one sick puppy!

There were no special guests unless you include Trey's new Midi-equipped guitar and the facial hair on all four member's faces. Yes, they've all got beards now and are entering the Sgt. Pepper's phase of their careers. The light show is now similar to the Grateful Dead's in the '90s with oval and triangle shaped light screens. Chris did a fantastic job, and our view from the risers opposite the stage was one gorgeous light sculpture after another. The other big news is the return of Fishman's dress (although he was wearing jeans under his green dress a fashion don't).

There were plenty of tickets still available at showtime. Inside, they had a curtain backdrop cutting the floor in half and making the big basketball arena actually feel intimate. By the time that the show began, the floor was jam-packed as was the whole joint, and it was jumpin'. The crowd was the loudest I've ever seen at a Phish show. In addition, it seemed like more people were wearing moe. shirts than Phish shirts. The "headseeds" have sprouted!

Chalkdust Torture opened the show loved it. It was similar to the Ventura version in that is was long and got real out there. Then a new funk instrumental appeared. This one started with a Talking Heads feel and then jammed into Medeski, Martin, and Wood territory. It had some cool changes written into it and was well received.

Also well received was a well-done Theme from the Bottom. Then we got a nice Train Song followed by one of the tunes I was most jonesin' for: Split Open and Melt! It was not the best version of all-time but still epic. Beauty of My Dreams followed, then MMMMMMMMMMMMy Soul a great version to close out the first set. What the heck am I talking about? We just thought the set was over, because they pulled a Shoreline and did You Enjoy Myself!! Only this was the best version ever!! Trey had the mojo working all night, especially on this song. As if this wasn't enough, a ROCKIN' Character Zero closed out the one hour and five minute first set!!!

Ah yes, how do you top a profoundly hot first set their tour warm-up set no less well, maybe with the finest Stash to ever grace the boys' amps. That's right a Stash second set opener.

Unconfirmed reports had it lasting 23 minutes. I can't convey the subtle beauty that Trey Anastasio found in the trance he fell into during this song. Luckily three people in my section were friends of mine and their DAT recorders were running so I'll hear it again before too long.

All night long, the jams had that "best version ever" feel to them. Punch You in the Eye was no exception. The Landlady samba section in particular was nailed perfectly.

Then we were treated to the most unique solo of the night, a melodious epic Prince Caspian. After a long midi-filled journey into the heart of Narnia we were brought back down to earth with a fine Bouncin' Around the Room. The only possible song that can top You Enjoy Myself? Mike's Song. Again I'm without words to describe the vibe. A while later we went into Hydrogen, which was Anastasio's only folly of the night. He massacred it in true Anastasio style, going into the change too early and never getting back on track. Yes, he butchered what is usually the most beautiful of transitions. I think he even purposely played the last note wrong to seal its fate as the worst Hydrogen ever.

Knowing that this would never end up on a CD, he decided to redeem himself by going wild during Weekapaug Groove. It started out normal enough, but Anastasio got Fishman to speed it up, then speed it up again, then again until it became the fastest version ever. I'm talking double time. Really. It was crazy. When it was done the roof was nearly blown off the place by the reaction of the audience.

The encore was alas not as historic as the Primus Harpua fest. Instead we got Anastasio referencing his Hydrogen debacle by playing Loving Cup and over-emphasizing the You know I play a bad guitar line.

What a show. I'm so happy I went. I even won $45 at the Hard Rock afterwards and although our plane was delayed and we didn't get home until 4:30, the exhaustion was worth it! Phish is still a band that must be respected, enjoyed, and of course, feared.

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Copyright 1997 The Music Box