Phish – UIC Pavilion – Chicago, IL 11.08.1998
I Taste, Carini, Love Me, RCR, Fee, P&S, Roggae, WITS, Stash, Cavern
II CDT, Meat>RnR>Disease>Piper>Wading, Antelope
E Been Caught Stealing
What happens when you have a Sunday night show in the middle slot of a three night run, the night that is typically your Saturday rock show night slot? Do you get an uber fantastic never-miss-a-Sunday-super-jammy-rock-show-for-the-ages? Or maybe you get that rock/energy show but amped up a bit because it is Sunday? Well, we get to find out because that is exactly what transpired on this run at UIC Pavilion in November 1998. After throwing down a quite solid show that is heavily jammed in the second set on Saturday the band came out and laid down a balanced effort that is high on quality performances of numerous songs including several first timers for this tour (and a couple of minor bustouts) with a few engaging jams that may not win any ‘best of’ competitions but can get you where you need to go if you let them.
Having stretched their legs the night previous and now settled into this little ‘residency’ here Phish comes out swinging with a energetic Taste, setting a good precedent for the night to come. This is firmly ‘Type I’ in nature but it comes off clean and bright. This uplifting music is put in counterpoint with the song that follows it, Carini, as the band crunches through the now-staple song which had not been played since the Europe Summer ’98 Tour. This version, coming 37 shows from that show opening take in Barcelona (the first of the final two shows of that mini-tour) is short and to the point but does get a little lyrical variation when the streaker from last night is referenced (you know, because Carini was the guy to take care of such matters back then…). After a bit of dark shredding in Carini we have the Mike-crooned take on the Elvis Presley classic Love Me, a tune that had been played seven times in 1997 with almost a year and 62 shows having passed since it last graced the stage on 11.30.1997 (as the denouement to that wonderfully twisted Wolfman’s). There will be one more appearance for this song later on in this tour which we will get to but since then it has gone the way of so many other fleeting covers before it. And I think most people are okay with that, honestly.
Once that is done we hear the tell tale tinkling electric piano sounds of a mostly rare but definitely well loved cover, Ride Captain Ride by The Blues Image. This classic rock radio standard has only been played seventeen times since it was debuted way back in 1987 (in a show where another well loved cover, Sparks, was also debuted) and up until a performance of the song at Deer Creek earlier in 1998 (after a 492 show gap) had not been played since the penultimate show of 1992. Tonight’s version is nice enough though it isn’t like they have ever really done anything with this song outside of mainly adhering to what you already know the song to be. After this performance it would be another year plus before the song was played again and after that it went into hiding until after Hiatus and The Long Wait. Fee is up next in a megaphone-less version and this does have a nice little outro that feels like it could have gone on longer and gotten more ambient but it doesn’t so we will just move on to the stock Paul and Silas that followed it but wait that isn’t really interesting to talk about either except that it had been 115 shows since they had last played the Josh White tune so let’s keep moving here, okay? Next up is yet another Roggae (it’s like the Fuego of Fall ’98!) which stands as the first song tonight that had already been played on this tour (I’m not counting the FarmAid or Sessions at 54th shows as part of this tour for stat purposes). They are clearly familiar with the song by now and it shows as they add a bit more flavor to the outro jam, layering a bit of ambience behind the lead lines Trey lays down. Still not exactly a big jam, this is quickly becoming a reliable midset tune with the end solos developing a bit more each time out. You could do worse than to have this song in heavy rotation.
Roggae is followed by the song that precedes it on The Story of the Ghost, Water in the Sky, a song that transformed for the album and in concert earlier in 1998 from being a somewhat clunky country-ish tune to its faster, phishier incarnation we know today. This is the first take on it this tour and it comes off well but still leaves us wondering if and when we might get an actual jam vehicle in this set. What’s that? Ah, yes, now we have it. Our first real live jam vehicle of the evening follows with the second Stash of the young tour. And while this stays mainly in the ‘Type I’ realm they do pull in some of those ambient tones, creating a melodic Tension and Release section with some Fikus teases thrown in for good measure. I’ve gone back and listened to this version more than once and was surprised at the density of music being played by the band here. On the surface it seems pretty straight forward but all four have a lot going on in the execution of this jam. After they resolve that Stash we are left with the set closing Cavern which in 1998 means some botched lyrics by Trey, a nice bit of funkiness, and a *ting* from Mike’s footbell in getting everyone ready for the lights to come up. I can imagine that the conversations about this set during that break were a bit all over the place considering there really is only one biggish jam (Stash). The playing is all very good and the energy is high so there aren’t any complaints there but it really just never gets out of the song-based format.
So after the break you have to be thinking that big things are on their way and when they come out and open with Chalkdust Torture you are saying to yourself, “okay, here we go, take this one out!” but then you remember that this is ’98 and they haven’t really blown up CDT in that big jam vehicle way yet. I mean, sure, there are some really shreddy versions from the first part of the song’s history but it really took until 1999 (and maybe even into 3.0, honestly) for CDT to evolve into a set-carrying monster like we have experienced in the past couple of years. This is not to take anything away from this night’s version except to frame it in saying that the song was more about energy and execution at this stage than in providing a launch pad for exploration. After crushing the rocking opener we get another Meat, a song where 40% of the total performances occurred in this its debut year. The best part of this is perhaps the set up it provides for the transition to Rock and Roll and the second ever performance of the VU classic. It would take a while for this song to evolve into being a real vehicle, practically becoming a crutch in the early part of 3.0 as it seemingly popped up as a consistently jammed song for the band throughout the first few years of The Return. This version is rocking and well played but sticks to the structure even more than that debut version from Halloween. The best part is probably the murky end/transition to Down With Disease which quickly elevates into a high energy version – and the de facto jam to carry the set.
The Disease jam starts off within the structure of the song as they build the intensity and develop a pocket as Trey goes electro shred over the rest of the band but then about ten minutes into the song Trey changes gears a bit, rising up with some guitar god lines that the band quickly follows in shifting directions. This does not continue for very long though as Trey eventually leads it all back to the full ending for Disease, something we don’t get to hear all that much anymore. But instead of wrapping it up completely Trey throws out a drone tone and over the next couple of minutes they put together a serene bit of ambient transition space (our only real ambient jam from this show) which offers a great starting point for Piper with its now-never-heard slow build intro section. This Piper goes to eleven in a hurry with Fish pounding away over the crunchy raging rock jam that develops — I really think it is Fish’s enthusiastic playing that causes this one to elevate as it does. The payoff here is in the shared frenzy that Fish and Trey push forward, building in strength and intensity until… all but suddenly the bottom drops out and we are Wading In The Velvet Sea. Wonderful. Sorry, I just can’t take this song here. It totally saps the set of all of the energy built up throughout that RnR>Disease>Piper section. I mean, sure, Trey has a lovely solo at the end but c’mon. It doesn’t even peak out like so many other versions of the song. This just feels like they needed to check off Velveeta on the songs played list for that night. Maybe Trey had an entry at phantasytour he really wanted to win that night or something. I dunno, but I’m happy to entertain defenders of the cheese even if I won’t agree with you.
After that interlude we set up for the set closing Antelope and tonight is another tight take on the song but lacks some of that mid-90s scary psychedelic energy that made this tune such a fan favorite in its hey day. Instead it provides a nice punch of energy to counteract the sob story of the preceding song in closing set, not too unlike the versions we (mostly) get here in 3.0. Not bad, but nothing to write much about either. The encore has some fireworks in the second ever cover of Been Caught Stealing, the Jane’s Addiction tune that was debuted during that ridiculously fun Alpine show from the preceding summer tour (and which also included the debut of Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On). While what you expect, it rocks out hard and sends everyone off into the Chicago night with a big grin because how could you not love them playing that song? Don’t answer that, jaded vets.
All told, what we have here is a failure to comm… wait, that’s something else entirely. What we have here is a classic rock/energy/custy/Saturday Night Special show except for that pesky detail of it having been played on a Sunday. There are jams here as we have seen but this one is more about songs and the energy they create. For many fans this is exactly the type of show they seek since they get to hear a bunch of songs, a few rarities and bustouts, some fun covers, and a couple of jams but nothing so out there that they might lose interest. I am not that fan. If this was your first show you would probably be psyched. If you had been following this band for a long time, perhaps had been on tour for a bit, and they dropped this show you might have had fun in the moment but this is not one you will call out to your friends when discussing epic shows and it won’t be one you get stuck in the ol’ cassette deck in your beat up Volvo wagon that is being held together by resin and bumper stickers at this stage. I am not saying anything negative here because it is all quite well played; I’m just pointing out that this is not an all timer. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have some solid takeaways here. For tonight I say you should spin that Taste, Stash, RnR>Disease>Piper, and perhaps that bit of outro jam from Fee, maybe? The Roggae is nice too so throw that in if you have the time. But don’t spend too much time here as we will have much more to discuss from the next one on the docket…