On February 24, 1998, Phish announced a four-show series that would come to be known as the Famous Island Tour. Just 37 days later, on this date in 1998, the band played the first of two shows at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, then performed two concerts at the Providence Civic Center in Rhode Island. Full video footage of the notoriously funky four nights on April 2-3 in Uniondale, New York and April 4-5 in Providence can be viewed below.
Phish archivist Kevin Shapiro has written extensively about the now-legendary tour of the island which he says took place between two studio recording sessions which they dubbed “Ghost Meat”.
April 2, 1998 Nassau Coliseum
‘Tube’ gave the Island Tour a funky start and the first set also saw a remarkable transition from ‘Stash’ to ‘Horn’. The second set included the debut of “Birds Of A Feather” and “Frankie Says”, the latter coming from a sublime sequencing bringing together “Wolman’s Brother” and “Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley”. The encore of “Guyute” closed out the opening show and set up an adventurous second night.
April 3, 1998 Nassau Coliseum
The second show of the island tour began with “Mike’s Song” which included teasing “Mozambique” which would not be released by Phish until September 9, 1999. A particularly funky “Weekapaug Groove” came behind “My Old Home Place” and blues cover “My Soul” closed out the first half. Only four songs made up the second set of the second night, with long takes on Ween’s “Roses Are Free” and their original “Piper” ahead of the Rolling Stones’ “Loving Cup” and a closer “Run Like An Antelope.” who launched shouts of “Carini’s gonna get you” after drum tech Pete Carini chased a stage mishap away from the band. A fitting “Carini” kicked off the encore followed by “Halley’s Comet” and a rare “Tweezer Reprise” without “Tweezer” being played earlier in the show.
April 4, 1998 Providence Civic Center
Moving on to Rhode Island, the April 4 show opened with sidekick “Tweezer” absent from the previous night. A transition to a nifty “taste” was another highlight of the first set. The second “Birds Of A Feather” started the second set and continued with a space-funk rendition of “2001” which, when completed, racked up over 30 minutes of music. A few performances of “Brother” (including a “radio-friendly” version) added a dose of levity to the second set and a stuck-up, “radio-incompatible” rendition of “Ghost” with a “Can’t Turn You Loose “. “, “The Lizards” and more funk inside “David Bowie” rounded out the second set. A languid “Harry Hood” sent fans home with another show remaining on the Island Tour.
April 5, 1998 Providence Civic Center
The only time Phish paired “The Oh Kee Pah Ceremony” with “You Enjoy Myself” opened on the final night of the Island Tour. The first half of a funk-filled evening also saw a groovy “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters” as well as a well-stuffed “Bathtub Gin” with a smooth passage in “Cities” and a closer “Split Open and Melt” . The almost non-stop playing from the opening of the Island Tour final set “Down With Disease” to the closing “Cavern” weaved supreme examples of “Cow Funk” throughout. The jam in “Ya Mar” is particularly interesting, a booming “Prince Caspian” enters the territory of ambient bliss, a blistering “Maze” smoothly transitions to the dark and funky beginnings of “Shafty”, the rock “Possum is dropped in favor of what is probably the funkiest rendition of “Cavern” ever employed. During the intro of “Cavern”, the guitarist Trey Anastasio thanked the public for attending the Island Tour, informed them that more funk was on the way and invited “those of you who want to take off, take off – but for those of you who just want to dance on the funk, we’ll stick around and keep grooving.The island tour ended with a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Bold Is Love” occupying the last encore slot.