Phish Halloween 2013: The Case for _Nine Tonight_

Rob Slater on October 3, 2013

Here at Relix, we have long debated which album Phish should cover during their Halloween show. Now, we bring that debate to you. Throughout the month of October, we will debut a series of articles written by members of the Relix family stating a case for a specific album of their choosing. Ultimately, we’ll probably all be wrong, but the fun is in the debate, so here goes nothing. The first installment takes a look at Bob Seger’s 1981 live album Nine Tonight.

My burning desire for Phish to cover “Hollywood Nights” has led me to pick this 1981 Bob Seger live album for Halloween 2013. Before I get into the album and why I’d love to see Phish take a stab at it, I want to lay out my basic qualifications for a great Halloween cover.

My three favorite Halloween sets are Remain in Light, The White Album and Waiting For Columbus. All three forced Phish outside their comfort zone both musically and lyrically which is, to me, the most important aspect when selecting an album. Nine Tonight plays on “Rock Band Phish” but also presents a challenge in arrangement, much like the way arranging music for a Broadway production would challenge a songwriter. Sound like anyone you know?

Anyway, The Silver Bullet Band boasted eleven members, including Mr. Seger. Eight of those are credited as vocalists. For Phish, a band that (let’s face it) can be vocally challenged at times, this will be their biggest obstacle. Producing those booming, arena rock vocals on tunes like “Hollywood Nights,” “Old Time Rock & Roll,” “Feel Like a Number” and “Nine Tonight” will challenge Phish in the best of ways.

I am also of the opinion that Halloween albums should be, at their core, fun. Much like the third set on New Year’s Eve or the song after a huge improvisation, there is a time and a place to rock out. The Halloween set is just that. Nine Tonight offers Phish a chance to inject their brand into classic rock songs. There are possible moments of improvisation (“Mainstreet” and “Fire Down Below”), humor (Fishman on “Feel Like a Number” anyone?) as well as some excellent displays of skill and precision (Page McConnell serenading the crowd on “We’ve Got Tonight”).

If you want to throw caution to the wind and belt out some good ol’ classic rock (lighters up for “We’ve Got Tonight”) and you believe Halloween albums should have a lighthearted approach to them, pull for Seger come October 31.

Why They Might Do It: If they’re not going to do a Springsteen album in Atlantic City, then this would be the next best thing. Yes, Seger hails from Detroit, but there is no denying the sound of The Silver Bullet Band encapsulates the blue collar mentality of New Jersey. “Old Time Rock & Roll” really says it all, and even maintains relevance presently (“Today’s music ain’t got the same soul”). Do I want Trey and Fishman to pull a Risky Business and go full-Tom Cruise on stage? Absolutely not. But the message still stands. This album should be considered because not only does it have redeeming music qualities but also sends a strong message.

Why They Won’t Do It: Logistically speaking, there are some extra players Phish would have to involve to pull off the huge sound of The Silver Bullet Band. Most notably a horn section and potentially backup vocalists. Also, this concept is eerily similar to the Waiting For Columbus set (in that Nine Tonight is also a live album) and if we know anything about Phish, it’s that they love to mix things up.

Nine Tonight Tracklist:

“Nine Tonight”

“Tryin’ To Live My Life Without You”

“You’ll Accomp’ny Me”

“Hollywood Nights”

“Old Time Rock & Roll”


“Against the Wind”

“The Fire Down Below”

“Her Strut”

“Feel Like a Number”

“Fire Lake”

“Betty Lou’s Gettin’ Out Tonight”

“We’ve Got Tonight”

“Night Moves”

“Rock and Roll Never Forgets”

“Let it Rock”