Phish — McNichols Arena — Denver, CO 11.04.1998
I Buried Alive>Zero, Guyute>Gin>Ya Mar, BOAF, B&R, Frankie->Bowie
II Jim>Moma>Piper->2001>CDT, Cup
Finally, after another night off Phish has made their way to Colorado to catch up with the fans who did not join them for the stop in Utah that we kinda discussed a bit there. For that day off they popped into KBCO Studios for a little interview and a few acoustic live tracks. Nothing too major there, but a fun listen to get a sense of where the band is at this time, covering stuff like the Halloween cover tradition, their messy situation with Red Rocks at that time, and more. And then the following night they hit the stage for the third and final time at McNichols Arena, the non-demolished arena that once was home to the Denver Nuggets before the construction of the Pepsi Center where the band would play on the early Spring 2003 Tour. This was also the last show in Colorado by Phish until the one time performance at Fiddler’s Green, a venue that has been greatly improved since that appearance, though the music didn’t suffer too much as a result of the venue issues considering the second set they threw down that night. But that’s for another time.
This show continues the run of sports arena shows that started in Las Vegas on this tour, a run that will stretch for a bit since the band had a strong enough following at this stage to be able to carry the larger crowds needed for these bigger rooms. It is a big contrast to the small crowd of the tour opener in Los Angeles but more typical of the era for the band. Tonight’s show opens with a solid combo of Buried Alive>Zero and while nothing revelatory these two songs provide the energetic punch sought in the opening slots. I must say that Zero works quite well here as opposed to its typical set closing or even encore slotting. Incidentally, the song has only opened sets three times, one each for a first, second, and third set. There have been 41 encore performances of the song out of its 186 performances, a bunch of first and second set closing slots, a smattering of midset takes over the years in both first and second sets (most times ending up within one or two songs of the closer though it does have a number of right smack dab in the middle of the first set slottings), and just one other time that the song was the second song of a set as it fell in the two-hole of the second set from MSG on 12.31.1998. That’s way more detail than you wanted here but I was curious so now you know.
After this they keep things on the up for a fun romp through Guyute (one of those classic I-am-not-picking-it-but-if-they-play-it-I-enjoy-it kind of numbers) before heading into Gin. There are no major takeaways in the jam here but they get to a nice build section before fading it out into a series of loops as they transition to Ya Mar. This cover song has a long history with Phish, mostly being played straight up with some short solos and whatnot but in late ’97 and throughout ’98 the song has become more of a vehicle for exploration. While this version is perhaps not at lengthy or expansive as the one from Albany ’97 or the captivating Island Tour one it does stretch beyond Ya Mar proper as the band gets into a sparse, staccato-esque jam where Mike and Fish take over the lead duties for some bass work/footbell action and wood block stylings, respectively. The compact rocking BOAF fills the next slot before we have a cool down section with two songs from the recent album coming in flip flopped from their album tracking. First up is Brian and Robert, a ballad that was a staple in ’98 and the latter part of 1.0 before becoming something of a setlist rarity these days. Frankie Says pops in again after this and while also in the lower energy spectrum this one goes pretty deep in the outro ambient jam with the first half being Trey-led and in keeping with the song structure before they dive off into the murk in a jam that feels more Floydish than the other ambient stuff they have been putting out there this tour. There are not a lot of loops or effects here with Trey playing some interesting melody lines as the rest of the band provides setting. It allows for nice table setting in beginning the tension to eventually be released with the set closing punctuation mark that is Bowie. This Bowie is mainly about what you expect with no major left turns to speak of though Trey does quote Stash in the midst of the jam which is nice. Outside of that the song closes the set finely enough and we are off to the break.
The second set kicks off with a slightly extended, rocking Jim that chugs along quite competently before giving way to Moma for the third performance of the song already in just five shows. Nothing special here as they go through the funk number in a typical way before heading into Piper which is where the real heat of this set lies. This song is played quite energetically, leading to an upbeat and raucous jam that stays mainly within the framework of the song before they bring it down to a loop’d transitional space, building the framework for what will be a full segue into the subsequent 2001. After achieving this segue we have a straight forward 2001 (save for the fight bell *tings* out of Mike) that funks its way to another rocker with CDT fitting the bill. This one is a fiery little monster with a shreddy back end jam but no stretching out of the song. Which then brings us to the Cup closer and we all know what that does. Encore is the always lovely Squirming Coil and we are them off to make the trip up to Wisconsin for the show two nights from now.
All in all this show is just fine with a couple of decent highlight jams and solid playing overall. It pales in comparison to the nights that precede it but that is not to say there isn’t some value to be found here. For takeaways I’ll say check out the Gin>Ya Mar, Frankie->Bowie, and Piper->2001. Definitely not a bad way to have spent a Wednesday in Colorado… and I am sure you are all thrilled that I did not write 3,000+ words for the first time this tour. Enjoy the extra free time as you prep for our Midwest run to come.