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Monday, April 11

Review: LivePhish - 10-30-2011 Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall

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Phish - 10-30/2011
Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall
Jemp Records

By: Greg Heffelfinger


From the opening sounds of the audience cheering, the energy in the building jumps out of the speakers. The latest in the series of Live Phish discs, the epic night before Halloween at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ, is a gem of a show and the latest of the greatest moments in Phishistory. There is no way the audience could have known they would hear six Led Zeppelin tunes over the course of one night of incredible music. With most of the Zeppelin tucked into a massive “Tweezer”, Phish just leaves you amazed at the amount of talent they bring to the stage any given night. Of course, it shouldn’t be surprising considering that the post-hiatus version of Phish has given us some of the best shows of their career.

The night before Halloween was ablaze with anticipation of what was to come the next night. Fans lit up the internet with speculation at what was to come, with Led Zeppelin being high on the list as the musical costume that year. Of course, the band ultimately chose Little Feat’s Waiting for Columbus but in a musical love letter to the fans the band played a show that many see as hot as the show on Halloween night.

Thankfully, the band has dropped the vinyl folder packaging and went with a simple paper sleeve with some excellent photographs instead. Live Phish physically releases only the best shows and this is no exception. Crystal-clear and well-mixed, it’s well worth buying and beats the pants off any audience tapes in circulation. It’s hard to pick out musical highlights since the whole show is a highlight. However, from the opening notes of “Kill Devil Falls” the sparks are flying. The first hint of what was to come, was a minute of “Whole Lotta Love” sandwiched into an enthusiastic “Chalkdust Torture”. The first set was energetic and well-played with a tight “Wolfman’s Brother” and a smoking “Bathtub Gin” that passes on the exploratory jams in favor of streamlined power.that sounds as good coming out of the speakers in your living room as it does in the concert hall. The second disc holds some of the most exciting music to come from Phish since and even before the hiatus. Out of a rocking “Possum” the band kicks off a “Tweezer” and proceeds to interpolate four Led Zeppelin classics in a display of musicianship that proves Phish is at the top of their game. The “Ramble On” and “Thank You” are note-perfect and you could be forgiven for thinking that they wrote them. Naturally, no band can match Zeppelin in terms of heaviness and power and neither Trey nor Page can match Robert Plant’s otherworldly howl or his flamboyant delivery. This is beside the point, though. This show is about giving back to the fans. In that respect, no other band comes close to Phish. After a fun take on the “rocking” part of “Stairway to Heaven” they slip back into Phish mode for a bouncy “Halley’s Comet” with a beautiful .segue into “2001”. In the tradition of the best shows, this whole show was played almost without pause. After a pair of new songs, the band dipped back into the Zeppelin catalog with a raucous “Good Times,Bad Times” and wrapped up with the standard pairing of “Sleeping Monkey>Tweezer Reprise” that ends many shows.

This set of discs is the best of what Live Phish should be. A classic show that is a snapshot of a moment in Phish history. We want crisp, bright, expertly mixed recordings of what came out of the band’s speakers and that is just what they provide in this three-disc set. In this respect, and many more, Phish has given us another great addition to the Live Phish catalog. Nothing comes close to seeing Phish live but this is as close as you are going to get and that isn’t bad.