REVIEW: Live in Utica DVD Box Set

Phish: Live in Utica will finally be hitting stores in just over a week on 5/14 (available for pre-order here).  I had the opportunity to enjoy it the past couple of days.  Allow me to share my thoughts on both the show and DVD box set.

As many of you know, this is the October 20, 2010 show from the Memorial Auditorium in Utica, NY.  This show was hyped the minute it was announced because of its incredibly intimate size.  The hype continued the second the band walked off the stage because of the unique setlist and the Guyute theme that was carried throughout the first set after that very song was played.

The show contains what’s arguably the best version of David Bowie since the band’s 2009 return, along with fantastic versions of Run Like an Antelope and Wolfman’s Brother.  While the My Soul opener falls a bit flat, and it sounds like Trey fumbles through parts of Drowned, the depth of the Split Open and Melt, the fact they played Tela, and the segue between Wolfman’s > Cities makes up for these forgettable faults quite well.

Set 1: My Soul, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Vultures, Wolfman’s Brother -> Cities > Guyute, David Bowie, Wilson > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Saw It Again -> Run Like an Antelope

Set 2: Drowned -> Sand > Theme From the Bottom, Axilla > Birds of a Feather, Tela > Split Open and Melt -> Have Mercy > Piper -> Split Open and Melt > Slave to the Traffic Light

Encore: Good Times Bad Times

This DVD set is constructed the same as Alpine Valley’s release was from last year.  The set contains two DVDs and two CDs.  The camera setup is the same as it has been for the Alpine release and the New Year’s Run MSG streams–8 cameras.  While, again, the band decided not to make the bridge to the modern era of video by releasing a hi-def Bluray, the quality of the DVDs are outstanding.

10.20.2010 (C. Gadzinski)

What helps the quality of the video is the fact that this show was played in an indoor venue.  The two DVD releases before this one were from large outdoor venues (Coral Sky and Alpine Valley)–this resulted in some of the head-on cameras to be farther away and for the entire first set to be played in the sunlight.  This small-arena show highlights the phenomenal work by lighting director, Chris Kuroda, from the first note of the show.  Make sure to notice the lights during Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan and David Bowie.

The DVD gives you the options between 5.1 audio or stereo sound depending on your stereo setup.  On the topic of audio, the remastered quality of the CDs released in this set is excellent.  However, I’m still not sure why they chose to release the CDs of the exact same show you just got a DVD of.  It seems to me that fans would rather just buy the DVDs and get that $32.99 price tag cut down to $19.99.  This is kind of like how they tried to claim they were giving us “free downloads” of whatever show we bought tickets to during the last fall tour, while at the same time raising each ticket price by ten dollars.  I feel like they would probably benefit from selling us exactly what we want.

Another really disappointing part of the whole CD ‘situation’ is the fact that they cut three songs from the show to keep the CD-count down to two rather than the three necessary to hold the entire show.  While the best parts of the show are on the CDs, most fans serious enough to buy this box set enjoy having a full show rather than a partial show in their collection.  The songs you won’t be getting the remastered audio of are: My Soul; Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan; and, the encore, Good Times, Bad Times.

To conclude, while the set disappoints in the CD department, and the DVDs are still not Blurays, this set is a blast to have for you and your other Phish-fan friends.  It’s a perfect thing to have bumping on your flat-screen TV on a Friday or Saturday night before going out while pre-gaming with your buds.  The fantastic lights captured in this video, alone, are enough to purchase this set–it’s sure to have you bouncing like a newborn elf.

Stay tuned to OPT for an exclusive UTICA DVD GIVE-AWAY CONTEST next week!