Phish Takes ‘Halley’s Comet’ Deep On Fall Tour 1998

By Scott Bernstein Nov 11, 2020 6:29 am PST

This year marks 25 years since Phish’s historic Fall Tour 1995. In recognition of that noteworthy tour and to make up for the lack of shows this fall, JamBase presents a daily retrospective highlighting a noteworthy moment from a Phish fall tour concert that took place on that date over the past 25 years (read a note on Fall 1997 here). The 25 Years Of Phish Fall Tour series runs each day between the start of Phish Fall Tour 1995 on September 27 through that tour’s finale on December 17.

Phish continued a memorable trip through the Midwest on this date during Fall Tour 1998 with a stop at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The show was one of just three played on November 11 over the past 25 years, including a concert at the same exact venue two years prior. Phish went heavy on the improv at Van Andel Arena in 1998, a show which featured one of the best versions of “Halley’s Comet” in the band’s history.

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The 24-minute “Halley’s,” the third longest ever as per Phish.net, kicked off the four-piece’s second set in Grand Rapids. Phish began the evening with an opening frame that featured a number of tour debuts including “Gumbo,” “If You Need A Fool,” “Tela” and “Theme From The Bottom.” Both “Gumbo” and “Theme From The Bottom” as well as “Birds Of A Feather” from the first set are Jam Chart-worthy.

Phish’s version of “Halley’s” from Grand Rapids contained three distinct segments. First, guitarist Trey Anastasio let the fretboard fireworks fly as he ripped it up on his Languedoc for the initial seven minutes of the jam, a period longer than nearly every version played in the current era. Then, keyboardist Page McConnell took the lead with frenetic wah-wah Clavinet bursts while Anastasio focused on rhythmic work.

The band next connected on an ambient soundscape though drummer Jon Fishman kept the beat powerful and steady throughout the entire song. Anastasio reasserted himself around the 17-minute mark and went right back into “machine gun” mode, as the guitarist unleashed one powerful riff after another. He finally landed on a pattern akin to the beginning of “Mr. Completely” that Phish used as the base for a strong peak ahead of a transition into “Simple.”

Page and Trey traded beautiful melodies during the straightfoward “Simple,” which gave way to just the second cover of The James Gang’s “Walk Away” since 1994. McConnell then shined on an unusual “Limb By Limb” featuring near silence in the middle of the jam before Phish brought the tune to its typical climax in particularly cool fashion. Next, a cover of “When The Circus Comes” by Los Lobos provided a bit of a breather for both band and fans. The stellar set came to a close with a wild, 17-minute “Ghost.” Phish went heavy on the funk and then Trey put the pedal to the metal for a raging conclusion featuring multiple crowd-pleasing peaks.

Phish said farewell to the Michigan faithful with a three-song encore. Bassist Mike Gordon fronted the group on all three tunes starting with “Contact” and continuing with covers of “Rocky Top” and “Funky Bitch.” While the show marked Phish’s fourth in Grand Rapids between 1993 – 1998, the band has yet to return to Michigan’s second-largest city.

Stream the Grand Rapids “Halley’s Comet” below and head to LivePhish.com to purchase the whole show:

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