Any band can spend a week in the studio, recording take after take until they capture that perfect track. With today’s software, you can just about make anyone sound like a rock star – but give them a stage, a huge audience and a set of complex songs and you see just what sort of musicians they are – or more importantly, are not!
Anyone will tell you that some bands just need to be seen live to really get an honest impression of how good they really are. Personally I’ve seen a lot of bands live, and a few come to mind as being incredible on stage. Bands/performers like Billy Joel, Ra and Dave Matthews just need to be experienced in concert.
Of all the live concerts I’ve seen, Phish is clearly the best live band. It’s funny actually. You mention the name Phish to anyone that is not a fan and all they conjure up are images of Dead-heads and Phish-heads smoking grass and dancing around in a field. Granted that is clearly the case at most concerts, but you can’t judge the band by their fans. Phish is one of the most talented bands I have even known.
I’m a musician, and I became a Phish fan after another guitar player I know dragged me to a concert at “Great Woods” (now the Tweeter Center) in Mansfield Massachusetts. It was a free ticket, so I went because I had nothing else to do that night. I literally sat there, glossy eyed as Trey Anastasio tore the roof off that place for like three hours. I was in instant fan, for all the right reasons. Trey, Mike, Page and John are all masters of their own instruments.
It’s hard to capture that energy on a live cd but Phish’s “A Live One” does a pretty good job. It’s a two cd set, but I personally think the first cd is clearly the better of the two. I’ve played guitar for many years, and I can’t imagine being able to do what Trey does live on stage. Actually, I can’t even imagine being Trey and having the opportunity to play with some of the best musicians in the business. Finding a great musician is not the hardest thing to do, but being able to share chemistry at that level is pretty rare. “A Live One” is a perfect example of the dynamic shared between the members of Phish.
One track in particular is “Stash.” This song is so incredibly technical, but sounds like a loosely organized “jam band” tune. That is until it crescendos into a mind numbing, technically syncopated bridge and Trey focuses the feedback and tears your brain out. I absolutely love how they build and build until the song is so huge you can’t believe it and Trey hits a high note and everything kicks into overdrive. I can’t image doing that on stage – it gives me goose bumps just listening to it. Another amazing track is “Chalkdust Torture”.
How does it rate?
8.5 out of 10.
Pros – amazing live performance, huge energy and “give you the chills” sort of dynamics.
Cons – Some of the vocals are not great. I never really thought that Phish was a vocal-heavy band, so I’m not surprised.
I recommend this album to anyone, but especially to musicians. Phish is not just a jam band, they are all incredibly talented. If you have never heard it, do your self a favor. Phish’s “A Live One” is GOOD STUFF!