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Friday, November 8

LivePhish Review: Phish - Niagara Falls - Dec 7th, 1995 - Niagara Falls Convention Center (CD Box Set)

Dec 7th, 1995
Niagara Falls Convention Center
Niagara Falls, NY
Jemp Records 2013

The year 1995 was one of many milestones for the band we all have to come to love, Phish. It was a year with multiple tours, Americana and European (in Support of Carlos Santana). They played a memorable Halloween Costume Show covering the Who's Quadraphenia, and they had a running chess match going on between the crowd and the band, where the crowd would meet at set-break and those participating would vote on the next move, it would be told to the band, and the chess board, one of huge proportions would be hung behind the band, as the band came out for their second set they would announce the crowds next move, it truly is the epitome of band/crowd interaction, something Phish has helped pioneer throughout their storied career. It's safe to say they were still new to the world of rock and roll in 1995, that is it hadn't quite sunk in that they we're already huge rock stars and they were on the fast track to selling out tours with arenas and amphitheaters on par with The Grateful Dead.

Dec 7th, 1995 Phish's late Fall Tour had them performing at Niagara Falls Convention Center, in Niagara Falls, New York. This show is the latest release from Phish's JEMP records and truly captures on CD a band that was in transition, still young enough to be enamored by their fame, and old enough to put together a show that displays their talent and chemistry.

The show opens with a cover of “Old Home Place”, a bluegrass tune that got the show moving. It's the movement in this show that most impresses. “The Curtain” comes together and is precise as each note is patiently picked from each member's instrument, including their vocals, “Please Me, Have No Regrets”. The a totally rocking “AC/DC Bag” jettisons from the “with-less “Curtain” and leaves a huge mark on the set. “Demand”, a more rare track comes in as a nice short treat before “Rift” takes off in the fashion that “AC/DC Bag” did just three songs back. The most outstanding track from the first set is the pure, patient and potent, “Slave To The Traffic Light”. The opening notes, and harmonics are right on time, the reggae infused beat is layered and the hard work of remastering this show is shown off as this track sounds fresh and raw, the drumming just leads the way as it jumps into the raucous mess that is choreographed in between with Page's beautiful work on the piano. The song really takes shape as the post-climactic build patiently grows with beautiful layers of rhythm and then guitar, eventually coming together as one of the most complete and clean “Slave's” of the tour. At the time a new composition, “Guyute” is executed well, and the rest of the first set is dotted with classics and an a cappela “Hello My Baby”.

The second set, shows off the audience's chess move, and then an extremely explosive “Split Open and Melt”, coming in as the longest track of the show it shows off the bands comfort level with each other in a improvisational manner as they experiment with many elements of the song, leaving little to the the imagination. “Strange Design” segues into one of the band's obviously earlier takes on “Taste” that moves into “Reba”. The rest of the show is packed with classics and songs developed by a band that is just 12 years old, not even a teenager yet.

The 3-Disc set comes in very cool box set with nods to the crew and band from that tour. The sound is second to none, with Languedoc as the Sound Engineer, it was recorded to 2-track DAT and mastered by Fred Kevorkian. As an added bonus “Poor Heart” (the slow version) from the sound-check is included on the third disc.

As usual, this disc set is a time-capsule of music where you can actual hear the band in the midst of an era, this one a particular fun and loose time for Phish as they started to branch out into larger sheds and amphitheaters all the while still playing intimate venues with their very dedicated crowd, not only growing daily, but a major participant in a concert caught on tape, and now remastered on CD for us all to digest and enjoy.
Words: Samuel Martin
Associated Editor: Greg Heffelfinger

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