...Of the Sun!
UIC Pavilion - Chicago
November 9, 1998
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 1999, Volume 6, #1
Written by John Metzger
Act III: Meaty, Beaty, Big, and Bouncy
On November 9, Phish concluded their three-show run at UIC Pavilion in Chicago, and delivered the best show of the weekend. The progressive rock ambience from the first evening returned in songs like Divided Sky, Bathtub Gin, You Enjoy Myself, and Slave to the Traffic Light. Also returning was the relentless punk rock intensity showcased in a scorching cover of Edgar Winter's Frankenstein and the hilarious Zappa-like humor displayed in Mike Gordon's lounge-jazz cover of Cole Porter's I Get a Kick Out of You.
Overshadowing everything on this final evening was the fact that many of the songs contained more of an operatic quality. Page McConnell's keyboards often painted the songs with the mood of a Broadway play. The band complemented this with meaty jams that fell somewhere between the orchestrated anthems from The Who's Tommy and the grittier street-smart Quadrophenia. Trey Anastasio further boosted this aura with his majestic, soaring guitar solos with an occasional dash of Carlos Santana and Bob Marley.
Most of Divided Sky was incredibly scripted and choreographed with respect to both the instrumentation and the technicolor light show. Midway through the song, the band took a two-minute break, freezing themselves in place. This drew an increasingly thunderous response from the audience before Anastasio carried the immense guitar motif to a potent finale. McConnell delivered a classy rendition of Jimi Hendrix's Bold as Love, which also concluded with an extraordinary thematic jam that built in a epic and seemingly endless crescendo.
A 25-minute Bathtub Gin opened the second set and burst into a lengthy, winding jam propelled by Jon Fishman's powerful, driving beat. Gordon underscored the melody with a bubbly bass that danced relentlessly around Anastasio's stunning guitar solo. Gradually, the band allowed the jam to grow softer and drift into a space-filled segment defined by McConnell's jazzy, flowing piano accompaniment.
You Enjoy Myself was the perfect conclusion to the second set. It certainly wasn't the longest rendition of the song that the band has ever performed, but its tight jams quickly moved beyond the bounds of the melody. Anastasio and Gordon took an extended and synchronized trampoline break as McConnell layered the song with the sound of swirling piano and organ. The tune descended into its typically surreal vocal chant, yielding pure mayhem as the oral expressions challenged and complemented the dizzying light show.
After a powerhouse Frankenstein, Anastasio thanked the audience and UIC staff for an enjoyable stay in Chicago and prompted the congregation with, "What song do you want to hear?" Fittingly, the band concluded the series with an a cappella rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Freebird. They turned the anthem into a barbershop quartet that not only covered the lyrics but also the instrumentation with perfect clarity, proving that too much time on the tour bus can either spawn creativity or make you go crazy. In the case of Phish, both cases appear to be true.
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