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Vida Blue @ The Majestic, Detroit, MI 7-20-02


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Hey everyone, well I thought I'd have a chance to sit and really develop this review, but I'm, not sure I'll have a chance while it's still fresh on my mind, so I'm just going to ramble a bit (!).

First of all, for those of you who have never been to the Majestic: it's SMALL! I was really surprised. Imagine The Opera House (Toronto) without the balcony and without the back section on the floor, but wider. A pretty good venue, it was only about 3/4 full, and it was about a million degrees in there by the midway point. Wierd eh? Anyway, I figured "this is the hardcore Phish community", and the crowd did indeed seem very happy just to see Page again!

And so... Vida Blue? Well, the show was good, rarely mind-blowing, and there were some problems, in my opinion, but overall it wasn't bad. Problem #1? The covers, actually. When they were happening, they were great: Cars (Gary Numan), Sheep (Pink Floyd), some tune Otiel covered by The Funky Meters. However, a few made me feel like I was watching a wedding band conduct an open rehearsal: Stir It Up (Marley, duh!), Jealous Guy (John Lennon), Fly Like an Eagle (Steve Miller). Further, none of these songs seemed to flow in any sense to the overall structure of the show. It was hard to turn those corners with the band, when they've been laying down raw electro-funk for 15 minutes and then all of a sudden Page is singing a rather sickly-sweet Lennon tune! Sorry but some of it seemed like filler, to me.

The original material fared well for the most part. Let me just say that Page was awesome! Crawling all over his keyboards all night long, just coaxing those spaced-out clavinet lines and making liberal use of his new synthesizer approach (I can't wait to hear him adapt this into the reunited Phish!). He didn't even touch his (electric) piano until the encore, Cars Trucks Buses, so it came as a bit of a shock to the ears by the end of the night!

And Page just looks cool these days [Wink] He's growing what's left of his hair out and he looks more like the Mad Professor than ever!

The main problem with Vida Blue, as I see it, unfortunately is the rhythm section. See, here's my thing about that: Oteil is an amazing bassist but he tends to play in his middle-to-high register a lot and moves through a lot of notes quickly and fluidly. Russell Batiste, while undeniably funky, also tends to punctuate his grooves with a lot of fills, and his performance on Saturday night contained not just a little bit of showboating and just plain showing-off. Unfortunately, because Page's contributions are so nebulous and delicate, he really needs a simple, solid, low-end to build upon and doesn't get it, and THAT's why Vida Blue often sound thin to my ears, and why a lot of people think they need another instrument I think. They don't, Otiel and Russell just need to pay more attention to the bottom end groove.

The Slip to open were great, and I will try to catch these guys anytime they're in the area. I thought they managed to fit a very natural development of mood and texture in their 45min set without rushing anything or seeming to worry about time constraints. The guitarist was particularly good, unafraid to play "pretty" and at other times just cutting it up. He didn't remind me at all of Garcia or Trey, which is a good thing! A real pleasant surprise, don't miss these guys when they head out to Nova Scotia later this Summer!

Just a few thoughts. For whatever it's worth I did very much enjoy the Vida Blue set but I wouldn't catch multiple shows or go particularly out of my way to catch them I don't think. Happily, I found this show much more enjoyable than the last show I went to, the Phil and Friends show in T.O., which left a real bad impression on me, musically.

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading!

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Read this off the Slip's list. It's a review of the Vida show in Cincinnati. Said something similar, even a hint of scandal perhaps:

"I talked with Brad a little after the show about the

possibility of any inter-band jamming and he said they were waiting for

Page to say something first. I thought this fell right in line with

the modest, down-to-earth attitude that the boys seem to have. Brad

did mention something about Oteil playing with them at a later date

though. Page and Vida Blue put on a solid show as well with John

Lennon, Pink Floyd, and Lead Zeppelin covers abound (although at one

point it seemed like Russel got really pissed and left the stage?

Maybe, my imagination). They ended up playing a huge single set that

wore me out. "

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