So if 1996 was the turning point for “2001,” and 1997 was next level, what is 1998? Well, 1998 is the mothership, it features the majority of the biggest and baddest versions ever played. Phish was boldly going where no band had gone before. Repeated journeys around the solar system and into our funky hearts. Let’s looks at the best of 1998.
04/04/1998 Providence Civic Center, Providence, RI
The first “2001” of 1998 is none other than the legendary Island Tour version. This one has it all. It starts with a long cool spacy intro. The first jam has a nice minimalist style so that the groove takes center stage. Sirens and whale calls a plenty before Trey takes charge at about the 8 minute mark. Trey’s playing tells a story and he nails everything into the first refrain. The second jam is short but packs a serious funk punch. Top tier version.
07/01/1998 The Grey Hall, Freetown Christiana, Copenhagen, Denmark
In from a 23 minute “Tweezer”…We get sirens to start before a sweet funky, jazzy, jam forms. This is a top notch first jam with killer interplay. Mike goes liquid to start Jam 2, forming a deep groove. Trey fires off a spaceship dirt tone before rocking some bluesy tones. After that, the band locks in and this about as tight a jam as you will find. Trey yet again does amazing work and things go almost “Crosseyed” at 11:00 mark. Grey Hall is an emotional journey that is another top tier version.
07/17//1998 Gorge Amphitheatre, George, WA
This version is within a four song set and is the longest “2001” ever played. It has a spacey intro that gives way to a minimalist style first jam. Dominated by Trey’s leads, things start to pick up around the 9 minute mark as Trey and Page finds some excellent interplay. By the 10:30 mark the Gorge dance party is in full effect. Jam 2 starts with Mike, and from there goes into illegal territory. Trey solos, start/stopping, power funk chords, then things go almost completely quiet. Full breakdown. Jam 2 has it all and is one of the most unique that you will find. Legendary version for good reason, it’s one of the best ever.
08/16/1998 Loring Commerce Centre, Limestone, ME
Lemonwheel “2001” is no joke. An eerie intro, and then Page drops rain from the heavens among the familiar 1998 Trey leads. At the 5 minute mark the jam finds another gear and a full “Crosseyed” groove breaks out with Page dropping rain left and right. Incredible stuff. Then at the 7 mark we go funk, start/stop, jamming and move into a full locked in jam. More “Crosseyed” in the first refrain. Jam 2 gets lasers, wickas, a Mike Tyson punchy bass, and full “Superbad” at 14:30. This version is stupid good. Yet another one of the best!!
11/19/1998 Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Colisuem, Winston-Salem, NC
Spacey alien intro that forms a deep groove. About 4:20 in, Trey takes the lead and a gorgeous jam breaks out with him working in “Crosseyed” beautifully and a high level of danceability. 8:50-10:30 is the real star of this version as things go full nuclear. Crowd blows up all started by some Fishman woodblocking.
12/29/1998 Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY
The intro is an awesome space exploration with visits from Nightmare on Elm Street. Tractor beams, death rays and pure evil loving filth. My favorite intro period. The drop is even cooler and Trey throws in the sickest tone ever on top of Fish. Trey starts going at the 7 min mark and then “Crosseyed” comes roaring in at 8:40. The drop in Jam 2 is a beast and Mike goes liquid. Jam 2 finds the high octane experimental funk we all crave. No moments of rest in this “2001.” In your face, ass kicking, improvisational music for 17 wonderful minutes. The intro is awesome, Jam 1 is awesome, and Jam 2 is awesome. 1998 finishes with another one of the greatest.