Phish hit Madison Square Garden last night for the second of four New Year’s run shows. After spontaneously buying tickets and hopping on a train to NYC just hours before the gig, I had the time of my life last night. Amazing seats (thank god for StubHub), a killer crowd, and an incredible first set that featured some of my favorite jams made last night an unforgettable show.
Pretentious Phish veterans who live for criticizing and over-analyzing 3.0 will say things like “It just wasn’t anything memorable by Phish standards, even for 2012 Phish” about last nights show, I’m here to tell you otherwise. I’m no Phish expert, and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen the band live; but I know a great concert when I see one. Last night was a great concert.
Set 1: Walking into the hot-box that was MSG as the first set started was overwhelming to say the least. The energy in the venue was high to begin with, and the band really picked it up by the time they got to the first solid jam with “AC/DC Bag”. This segued into an unusually placed, but very welcome, “Rock and Roll” early in the set.
The jam highlight of the first set was an awesome version of “Reba”, complete with the entire whistle chorus! About 10 minutes into the song the band was really killing a slow, groovy jam when the crowd erupted with cheers and applause out of nowhere. This was one of the best things I’ve ever seen at a live show. Every person in the venue was yelling at the top of their lungs; and the band didn’t even flinch, they just kept on killing it! Stuff like this only happens at Phish shows.
“Halley’s Comet”, which is one of my all time favorites, followed up. Belting out the goofy “Halley’s” lyrics with thousands of other people was absolutely one of the highlights of the night. The first of many moments where Page shined during the night came during “Wading in the Velvet Sea” late in the set. “Bathtub Gin” closed out an amazing first set, the show could have ended here and I would’ve been satisfied!
Set 2: A cover of TV on the Radio’s “Golden Age” started the second set. Unlike the “Golden Age” that opened second sets during shows like ‘Roo during the summer tour, this version sounded much less like a cover and more like a true Phish song. I can’t help but feel bad for bands when Phish plays their songs so much better than the originals…
A rare “Waves” and extremely sporadic and unfinished “Prince Caspian” followed up. It was clear by now that the band wasn’t taking any breaks during the second set. Phish made Stevie Wonder proud last night with a “Boogie On Reggae Woman” that got all 20,000 phans dancing like crazy. Page and Mike traded off funky bass lines towards the end of a fun jam that segued straight into “Suzy Greenberg”.
“46 Days” finished the second set, and I swear if I closed my eyes I would think I was at a Dead show. Am I allowed to say that?! The completely segued second set really showed off the band’s improv and jam abilities, but made the set go by way too fast!
Encore: The encore started with a beautiful “The Squirming Coil”. Page was shining all night, but he literally stole the spotlight during “Coil” with an amazing solo that had the crowd in absolute awe. A entirely acapella “Grind” showed off the vocal abilities of the quartet. I’ve wanted to see something like this live ever since the first time I watched Bittersweet Motel! The crowd went wild as the band returned to their instruments to play one last song. The always fun and jammed out “First Tube” closed out the show.
Random Thoughts: Mike’s red pants were awesome, that guy knows how to dress. Between the random choreographed dance moves from the band and glowstick wars from the crowd it was hard to tell who was having more fun last night. There seemed to be way more well dressed fans than wooks, not sure if this is a good or bad thing.
Final Thoughts: I saw a ton of my favorite jams, and even some surprises I didn’t expect. My seats in section 115 didn’t give me the best view of Chris Kuroda’s legendary light show, but it beats being behind the stage!
As someone who grew up on Phish but didn’t get heavy into them until 3.0, it’s shows like last night’s that reassure me that this band still has many good years left. I’m not going to get bummed out and hung up over comparing this show to other 12/29 shows from years ago, I’m going to take it for what it was: an awesome night!
Saturday, December 29, 2012, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Set 2: Golden Age >; Waves >; Prince Caspian# >; Boogie On Reggae Woman >; Suzy Greenberg >; Bug >; Cavern >; 46 Days
E: The Squirming Coil, Grind, First Tube
[*] Follow the Yellow Brick Road tease
[^] Susie Q quote from Fishman