Billboard Bits: Phish/B.B. King, Willie Nelson, Ween

PhishBlues legend B.B. King joined jam-band juggernaut Phish on stage last night (Feb. 24) at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. About 45 minutes into the concert, King was introduced and handed his trademark guitar, Lucille, and the group tentatively eased into a 23-minute version of Memphis Slim's "Everyday (I Have the Blues)." That was followed by blistering 12-minute workouts of King's own "The Thrill Is Gone" and "Rock Me Baby," which both found Phish lead guitarist Trey Anastasio and King trading licks and solos.

The set ended with an embrace between Anastasio and King, who walked off the stage to a standing ovation. Phish later returned to the stage for a second set and encore, completing an almost three-hour performance. The group is in the midst of its February arena tour, its first since returning from a two-year performing and recording hiatus. Phish plays Philadelphia's First Union Spectrum tonight.


-- Troy Carpenter, N.Y.







Willie NelsonColumbia/Legacy's "The Essential Willie Nelson," a two-disc, 41-track career retrospective compiled to celebrate the artist's 70th birthday, has been bumped to April 1 from its originally scheduled March 16 release date. Nelson turns 70 on April 30.

The set will feature chronologically arranged hits and classic songs spanning 41 years and nine record labels. Also included will be "One Time Too Many," a previously unreleased duet between Nelson and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, and "Slow Dancing," a collaboration with U2. The latter was released as the B-side to U2's 1993 single "Stay," and later on the band's "If God Will Send His Angels" single in 1998, with re-cut vocals by Nelson.

The "Essential" CD booklet will include testimonials from dozens of personalities, including former Texas governor Ann Richards, and such notable musicians as Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Bonnie Raitt, Kid Rock, Dave Matthews, U2 singer Bono, Kris Kristofferson, and Ringo Starr.





WeenOff kilter rock duo Ween has set a short spring tour built around its appearance at New Orleans' Superfly During Jazzfest concert series. The group -- whose ninth studio album is due sometime this spring -- will kick off the outing April 30 at Knoxville, Tenn.'s Historic Tennessee Theater and play through a May 10 date in Cincinnati, with seven shows in between, including the previously announced May 3 gig in New Orleans with Les Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains.

The band also recently has been receiving a modicum of publicity for an aborted stint writing jingles for Pizza Hut. As Ween explains it on its official Web site, they wrote six versions of a 28-second song called "Where'd the Cheese Go" to promote the chain's new "Insider" pizza, which hides the cheese inside the crust. Each version was rejected by the advertising firm that hired the band, but Ween has posted two of the jingles in MP3 form on its Web site for fans to make their own judgment.

Here are Ween's spring tour dates:

April 30: Knoxville, Tenn. (Historic Tennessee Theater)
May 1: Oxford, Miss. (the Library)
May 3: New Orleans (State Palace Theater)
May 4: Houston (Numbers)
May 6: Columbia, Mo. (Blue Note)
May 7: St. Louis (the Pageant)
May 8: Urbana, Ill. (the Canopy)
May 9: Indianapolis ('Jammin On Jersey' Festival)
May 10: Cincinnati ('Jammin' On Main' Festival)


-- Troy Carpenter, N.Y.

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