The Curtain (with) is a unique song in many respects. To start, the lyrics are not written by any current member of the band. In 1987, Trey combined his music with Marc Daubert's lyrics to form the song. When asked about the lyrics, Daubert stated the following in a Hidden Track interview:
“When I was much younger, my parents tried to get me to believe in God...They forced me to go to church on Sunday. I rebelled eventually and was left at home on Sunday mornings. This was the best time for me to practice music. So, music became my religion. Eventually, that became confused and entwined with the meaning of this song. ‘Chanting words from a song’ is the correct phrase. ‘Please me, have no regrets’ came from the baby’s mouth. The song that the baby is singing is an expression of sacrifice. There can be no love without sacrifice. This is the greater meaning in these words.”Listeners can immediately notice the stark contrast of these lyrics to any other Phish song. The lyrics are dark and philosophical, and give the song a very different sound. Another interesting aspect of the song is that the melodic ending was made optional on February 7th, 1988. After that point the song developed two names, adding the "(with)" to the end of the versions featuring the melodic ending that would later be tacked on to rift.
The song was first played on 8-9-87 at Nectar's (this show was also the first for Divided Sky, Fee, Harpua, and the Sloth) and has only been performed 13 times prior to last night. The shortened version has been played many times, however, after '88 the longer version was shelved for 12 years. Returning on July 12, 2000 at Deer Creek, the song would be played several more times on that tour, establishing itself as a latter day fan favorite. A notable version from this period is the one from Columbia on September 17th, 2000.
Last night's version of the song makes an strong statement about the band going forward. There are no limits or boundaries. Any song can be played at any moment, regardless of its history or baggage. The placement of this song last night (reminiscent of Deer Creek 2000) could not have been better, as it prepared the crowd for the spectacular show that was to unfold as the night went on. The future is looking very bright based on the display Phish has been putting on the past few nights. Looking back on tonight's setlist, it is clear that any song's destiny is unbound.
I have posted below the link to the debut of The Curtain (with) at Nectar's in '87. Also, watch this video of Phish practising The Curtain (with) prior to their show in Brooklyn 2004, and another of them performing The Curtain from 8-17-96.
1987-08-09 Nectar's, Burlington, VT