Live Phish, Vol. 5: 7/8/00, Alpine Valley Music Theater, East Troy, WI

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Easily the weakest of Phish's first six live releases, the choice of this show -- recorded in East Troy, WI, during the band's summer 2000 tour -- is somewhat boggling. Though the crystalline sound quality reveals a band with a rightfully legendary interplay, the polite way to describe that interaction on this show is subtle. To be fair, it is subtle, but the show is -- in many ways -- a lowest-common-denominator excursion, during which the band (specifically guitarist Trey Anastasio) often falls back on bombastic rock arranagements, such as a lazily loping "Wolfman's Brother," a boring "Twist," and the standard blues-rock tension and release of "Possum." Mostly, the show finds the band trying to play with a big energy and failing. A high point is provided by the take of "Piper" on the second disc, a song with which the band relentlessly experimented during the summer of 2000, working to play with the song's dynamics in a masterful way while still developing the melodic improvisation. The show, like the six-CD Hampton Comes Alive, is populist in a way that Phish's earlier work rarely is, favoring simplified rock and funk grooves over abstract excursions and hyperactive key changes. The Alpine Valley show is a stereotypical document of Phish in 2000, wallowing in a malaise.

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