Phish

Live Phish, Vol. 7: 8/14/93 (World Music Theatre, Tinley Park, IL)

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The seventh volume of Phish's Live Phish series, and the first in the second batch, captures the band at the height of their listening powers. It is highly representative of the kind of music the band was making live between 1992 and 1994: funny, fast, stylistically diverse, conceptual, well rehearsed, and musically hooked up, if not a taste immature. The show was recorded near the end of the band's first tour of major amphitheaters (many of which were half-empty for the bulk of the tour). The energy over the three discs is raw and palpable and is filled with sudden left turns (in tempo, key, and even time signature) that could only come as the result of years of dedicated hard work. Densely composed songs such as the fugue-like "Guelah Papyrus," "It's Ice," and "You Enjoy Myself" move with a nearly breathtaking fluidity. The improvisations -- such as the long second-set sequence that connects the band's own "Run Like an Antelope" with the Who's "Sparks," the James Gang's "Walk Away," and the Mighty Diamonds' "Have Mercy" -- are schizophrenic and hyper, but also absolutely enthralling if one is willing to surrender to their momentum. The liner notes, which contain excerpts from bassist Mike Gordon's journal entry from the night of the show, offer penetrating insight into the way the band thought about themselves, speaking of intraband communication, Zen awareness, and the day-to-day life of a working band on the road. In many ways, it is the band's sense of humor that guided their collective sensibility and allowed them to simultaneously follow interesting musical whims (odd rhythmic forays into reggae, for example, through the second set), as well as defuse the pretensions that many of their prog rock tendencies might otherwise lead to.

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