Fresh off the presses, Phish’s new Coral Sky DVD may be one of the band’s best DVD releases yet. Filmed on November 2nd, 1996 at the Coral Sky Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, Florida, this historic Phish show is extremely impressive to say the least. 1996 produced some of the best Phish jams to date. Shorter setlists and extended jams and segues allowed for the masterful group improvisational techniques of Phish to be seen and heard, leaving the watcher in awe. As is sometimes the case, the setlist of the Coral Sky show does not necessarily look like anything amazing on paper, but once the DVD begins to play, it is clear that the members of Phish meant business that night in Florida. Joined by percussionist Karl Perrazo of Santana, this show was quite out of the ordinary and special.
Opening with the Mustangs’ “Ya Mar,” an upbeat reggae tune, Perazzo and John Fishman kicked off the show with an interesting rhythmic introduction. Mike Gordon’s steady bassline helped carry the groove. Following a ‘play it Leo’ call from Trey Anastasio, Page McConnell’s organ solo was smooth and mellow. Anastasio came in for the kill with one of his upbeat, flawless solos. Next up was “Julius,” a fast paced blues tune that Anastasio dominated with a fiery solo. Changing up the gears once again, the band played “Fee” next. Going from reggae to blues to jazz, Phish is a group that is not bound by genre. Singing through a megaphone, Anastasio told the story of Fee with great accompaniment by Phish. Up next came “Cavern” then “Stash,” two classic Phish crowd pleasers that sounded great and always have good audience responses. Following “Stash,” Phish played a mellow and precise “Lizards,” followed by “Free,” another of their great jam vehicles. Closing the set was Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” a fast paced blues tune that was nailed with perfection.
While the first set contained a number of shorter, well-performed songs, the second set brought out the extended jams that Phish is famous for. Opening with “Crosseyed and Painless” by the Talking Heads, the set was off to a great start. One of the best covers that Phish plays, this song was executed perfectly. Fishman’s vocals sound so much like David Byrne’s, and the performance by the band is excellent. The jam out of “Crosseyed” was extremely, seeming to go on endlessly without losing any luster. Phish takes the watchers to a new place in this jam, where after only a few minutes, the jam would be in a completely different realm. Segueing into the famous “Run Like An Antelope,” Phish kept the energy high for a lot longer. Over 40 minutes elapsed between the first two songs of this set alone. Following this monstrous segue was a much needed slow song, “Waste.” Here the band gave a stellar performance of this beautiful song, with Anastasio asking the audience to “come waste your time with me.” Next up at bat was “Harry Hood,” one of the coolest Phish songs without question. Gordon’s heavy bass introduction, followed by a chaotic composed section, flowed perfectly into the slow, euphoric jam that this song is famous for. Anastasio and McConnell take the audience to a new dimension over the steady improvised progression provided by Gordon and the masterful rhythmic eccentricities of Fishman and Perazzo. Following “Hood” was the Beatles’ “A Day In The Life” and the classic a cappella “Sweet Adeline.” Ending the show was an encore of “Funky Bitch,” where the band was joined by Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks, bringing the heat to West Palm Beach one last time.
Overall, this DVD is definitely worth the purchase. I have placed it at the top of all of my music DVDs. Between the superb playing, the pristine recording, and the amazing sit-ins, this show deserves an A+ rating. For anyone, Phish fan or not, this DVD is a must have.