On November 17, 1997, Phish hit the stage at McNichols Arena in Denver, CO for their second of two nights at the venue and the fourth show overall on their 1997 Fall Tour, referred to with reverence by fans as “Phish Destroys America.” The November-December ’97 run is frequently referenced as one of the best tours–if not the best tour–the band has ever played, and while the 21-date stretch boasts countless highlights, 11/17/97 easily ranks among the cream of the crop.

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Coming out of the gate guns a-blaring, Phish kicked off the performance with a tight, focused 18-minute “Tweezer” opener, before opting for fan-favorite composition “Reba”, which also received the extended improv treatment. After a quick breather with “Train Song”, the band kicked into “Ghost”–and what a “Ghost” it was. The jam reached one raucous space-funk peak after another, cycling through playfully blissful and rocking, funk-laced grooves for nearly 22 minutes of Phish on fire. Appropriately, the band transitioned from the end of the “Ghost” jam into Jimi Hendrix classic “Fire” to cap an insane, improv-heavy, five-song first set.

The show’s second set opened with a “Down With Disease” that segued smoothly into a brief interlude of “Olivia’s Pool”, the song that would eventually evolve into frequently sought-after rarity “Shafty”. The cover of “Johnny B. Goode” that followed featured a top-notch 12-minute stretch of improv at the end of the song proper before segueing into ZZ Top‘s “Jesus Just Left Chicago” for some blistering blues. Los Lobos‘ “When The Circus Comes” came next, setting up a massive “You Enjoy Myself” set closer, before a standard-awesome “Character Zero” provided its usual victory lap.

This performance showcased a band at the pinnacle of their abilities, poised to go on a historic tear. Thankfully, Phish released the show as Live Phish 11, so we can all still enjoy high-quality audio of the magical evening.

Setlist: Phish | McNichols Arena |Denver, CO | 11/17/97

SET 1: Tweezer, Reba[1], Train Song, Ghost > Fire

SET 2: Down with Disease[2] -> Olivia’s Pool > Johnny B. Goode -> Jesus Just Left Chicago, When the Circus Comes, You Enjoy Myself

ENCORE: Character Zero

[1] No whistling.
[2] Unfinished.
Reba did not have the whistling ending and Disease was unfinished. Ghost included a Super Bad (James Brown) tease and Johnny B. Goode contained DEG teases. This show was officially released as Live Phish