Watch Phish Play the Entirety of the Talking Heads’ Remain in Light (1996)

When I encoun­tered the above video of Phish play­ing the entire­ty of the Talk­ing Heads’ Remain in Light as the sec­ond set of a 1996 Hal­loween show, let’s just say I was skep­ti­cal. How was the ulti­mate jam band going to approx­i­mate the tight­ly wound funk and weird angu­lar­i­ty of the Heads? Or would they turn these songs into mean­der­ing fif­teen-minute improv ses­sions with end­less digres­sions and break­downs? Then again, this all makes a cer­tain amount of sense. The 1980 Bri­an Eno-pro­duced Remain in Light saw the Talk­ing Heads sprawl out in ways they nev­er had before. They took on sev­er­al addi­tion­al musi­cians for the record­ing process, includ­ing one of the gods of prog-rock, King Crim­son gui­tarist Adri­an Belew. They exper­i­ment­ed with African polyrhythms blend­ed with New Wave sounds (decades before Vam­pire Week­end); they worked in a horn sec­tion, and let the art-funk over­pow­er the nerd-punk of their first two records. The songs stretched out in length. On tour, they took on five addi­tion­al play­ers, includ­ing Belew, to form a nine-piece band.

But at the heart of it all was still the incom­pa­ra­ble hus­band-and-wife team of drum­mer Chris Frantz and bassist Tina Wey­mouth, the most unlike­ly funk/soul rhythm sec­tion imag­in­able but one that could hang with almost any Stax or Motown crew. And then there’s David Byrne’s para­noid alto bark. So can Phish real­ly bring enough white soul and weird­ness to the table? Well, no; they aren’t the Talk­ing Heads. The per­for­mances are loose and rangy, the rhythms often indis­tinct, par­tic­u­lar­ly on the open­er, “Born Under Punch­es,” a song that needs max­i­mum punch. But they do hit the cho­rus­es of “Crosseyed and Pain­less” and “The Great Curve” nice­ly, even if the album’s big hit “Once in a Life­time” is far too clut­tered. Over­all, even reined in by the tight­ly-arranged com­po­si­tions of Remain, they’re still Phish, not a Talk­ing Heads trib­ute band, but their love for these bril­liant songs comes through in even the nood­liest, tie-dye-frac­tal moments.

For the sake of con­trast, take some time and check out the Heads them­selves below, live in Rome with Adri­an Belew on lead gui­tar. They do two Remain in Light songs: “Born Under Punch­es” and “Hous­es in Motion.” And Belew’s solos blow the roof off.

via Boing Boing

Josh Jones is a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.

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Comments (5)
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  • Enophile says:

    In Richard Gehr’s The Phish Book Trey recalls that the band was rel­a­tive­ly under­pre­pared for this dif­fi­cult set, which they rehearsed from start to fin­ish only once before the show. Dig the min­i­mal­ist cow-funk on “The Great Curve”.

  • Philophile says:

    I love the Rev­o­lu­tion 9 type end­ing. GO TO WORK and WHERES MY COFFEE with phish­mans screams. It is THE shit.

  • twout says:

    The name of this band is Talk­ing Heads. There’s no “the”

  • Eric says:

    I was at that hal­loween show in ’96. It was at the ‘Omni’ in Atlanta, drove up from FL with a bud­dy. Tremen­dous. The oth­er sets too.

  • Matthew A Noble says:

    I was at this show, taped it on to DAT tapes, it was incred­i­ble! This was my sec­ond to last show. was on the bus from 1987 to the next show…

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