Sorry for the lack of posts. The Health Care debate we knew would transpire, and the life of Sarah Palin have just not been enough to motivate. In many ways I have just checked out of the news for a while, and I don't see an end in sight.
Meanwhile, Phish has interested me.
Taking the advice of my friend Wendy, and some others, I decided to try it out one more time. This time it was Hartford.
Cheers, Phish, for it was very good. I've listened to many of the shows they played before Hartford, and this was the first complete show that was actually start to finish both a show, and good. I never denied they could play a great version of a song here and there, or maybe have a solid 30 minutes, but overall, they were unable to perform great shows.
Lucky for me I was with people who attended Shoreline, Red Rocks, Gorge, and Chicago, in addition to the earlier East Coast shows, and all agreed, Hartford was far and away the best show. The reasons to me are obvious. They never wanted to leave the East Coast, and having come back to it after getting back in shape, they were surrounded by some of their oldest friends, families, and supporters, which I believe made them really happy. It showed in how they played.
I'm not going to review the music outside of saying it was all played really well, and there were some excellent moments. A very good show.
But who would I be if not the straightforward contrarian? Certainly not myself, so here goes.
The band is what it is, and I've come to terms with it. It's an event, something fun to see and hear, with moments of really good music. Certainly not groundbreaking at all. I've read some reviews, message boards, etc, just to get a feel for the ridiculousness being bandied about, how "Red Rocks night 1 was the best show ever", and I laugh. Anyone who says that doesn't even understand that statement, or has a super potent drug which either makes the average amazing while erasing the past. The "best ever" happened, and will not happen again. It's a sign of the times.
The members of Phish are friends again, and because of it they can have fun on stage and with their supporters. But these four guys are no longer bound together by days on the road, endless days away from families, few worries outside of where they may have their next meal. Today these guys have real life issues which involve families, homes, responsibilities greater than what they were willing to tackle in the 90s, and countless other things. They know each other well, but they're not who they were then.
The same can be said for the fans, many of them have jobs they can't miss, spouses, children, and their own responsibilities. They cannot give what they once provided, and both the band and fans played off of that energy for years. It's just not the same.
New songs are written by the individual, then taught to the others, but not on some tour bus halfway through Kansas, but maybe in a studio, or on a computer. The things they bring to the table are things they do somewhat alone, and then they try to make something of it.
Then there's the old material, which in many ways cannot be epic because the versions played by the band of old just cannot be touched by the band of today. The emotional bonds I just referenced no longer exist. A perfect example of this is the simple notes Trey stumbled upon in the summer of 1997, which he would tease throughout many shows, until he brought to a moment during Bathtub Gin at the Great Went. Those ideas are no longer possible because of who they are in their lives.
The bottom line is it's just different, and it cannot be, nor will it ever be, what it was. That does not mean the show at Hartford was not great because it was.
I had hoped the band would be better than before; smarter, wiser, cleaner, and energized, but it's just a dream. Having seen them at their new peak on Friday night confirmed that to me. However, they did make me a fan again, and when they come back to my town, I'll certainly try to see them. But hearing people talk about this particular show, or this tour, as if Phish just reinvented the wheel makes me shake my head. If they did reinvent their version of the wheel, they did so by squaring it off, not by making better treads.
I'm glad these guys have seemingly found themselves, even if only for a night here and there. It's important, nice to see, and fun. I can relax knowing they seem to be friends again, and in a good place. I want them for them. For me though, I'm not delusional. They're a good band right now, great if you never saw anything before 1998, but I know exactly what it is that I saw and heard.