Sunday 12/30/2012 by sausagemahoney

MSG2: "SHOW OF LIFE" STILL ON THE BOARD FOR NYE

The date December 29 has historical significance to Phish fans. Back in 1994, the New Year's Run followed a magnificent fall tour that had seen the band deepen and extend its improvisations, learning to move quickly and sometimes abruptly from one idea to another, from one riff to a variation to chaos to deep space and then back. The month between 11/12/94 at Kent State and the end of the tour in particular featured consistently sophisticated and exploratory second sets the likes of which Phish had never been able to deliver before. After taking a couple of weeks off for the holidays and a warmup the night before, Phish showed up on December 29, 1994 and emotionally demolished the ancient Providence Civic Center with possibly the most storied single jam in its history. As readers of this site know, the 35-minute, multi-part Providence "David Bowie" recently placed first in the Phish.net working group's (admittedly off-the-cuff and informal) poll of Phish's greatest jams. Even those (like me) who wouldn't rank it number-one have to acknowledge its immense significance and wondrous beauty.

That was the start of it, but Phish's December 29 exploits didn't end with 1994. The following year's New Year's Run is generally regarded as the best the band ever delivered. But although 12/31/95 is deservedly the pick of that run as a complete show, the best single moment of the run (and the most eloquent summary of what Phish learned on the road during its strongest touring year) was probably the transcendent "Bathtub Gin" -> "The Real Me" -> "Bathtub Gin" from December 29 in Worcester. And even as great as those high points from Providence and Worcester were, for the best single 12/29 set, you probably need to look to the masterful funk- and segue-filled second frame of the 1997 show at tonight's venue, Madison Square Garden.

On the one hand, if you're a glass-half-empty kind of person, you could point out that Phish hadn't hit those heights on any December 29 since that night 15 years ago. But it's probably worth using the other hand instead. The second leg of summer 2012 was at least a little bit of a fuck-you to people who have worried that Phish's best days are behind them, that they're not really challenging themselves, that they don't play together often enough to really maximize their ability to play together as a band, etc. These concerns are justifiable. But the stretch between Long Beach and Denver was Phish's best tour since June 2004, and maybe since the summer of the year before. Given that recent run of excellence, there was every reason to believe that Phish would show up big and sweep away everybody's bad memories of last year's dismal MSG run. Last night's show, particularly the colossal "Wolfman's Brother" and the second set bookends of "Tweezer" and "David Bowie," was a good start.

Well ... tonight was a lot more like December 29, 2011 than December 29, 1997. This is not a blanket condemnation of Phish in 2012 or a prediction that they won't deliver great shows the next two nights. But this was a below-average show even for 2012, with a good but safe first set and then a second set that felt like another first set.

Don't get me wrong, the first set was certainly good enough and you could see it leading to bigger and better things. (I watched the show on the webcast, in case you want to use that as a pretext for discounting what I'm about to say.) When I was a post-secondary student and complete dork in the mid-1990s, I wrote a long boring critical-theory post on rec.music.phish that had absolutely no influence whatsoever. It was called "Height and Width" and proposed the idea that there are two obvious ways to think about how good a show is. One is height, or the peak quality of the music during the show. Another is width, the overall quality, absence of low points, consistency of playing. What you think about tonight's first set, and whether you prefer it to last night's, broadly speaking depends on whether you put more value on peaks or on consistency. Last night's first set was pretty bad until the excellent "Wolfman's," and I wouldn't fault you for rating last night higher based on that alone. But I still preferred tonight's combination of (1) fail-safe first set tunes, like "Mound," "Sugar Shack," "Halley's," and "Reba" with; (2) tunes that usually show up (and often disappoint) in the second set, but are much more palatable in the first set, like "Rock and Roll" and "Limb" and "Wading." I don't think you can legitimately compare tonight's "Gin" to last night's "Wolfman's." This "Gin" brought some napalm, but only for a minute or so. It was the sort of short burst of intense energy that Phish can emit in its sleep. Overall, at just 10 minutes the "Gin" didn't see the kind of development we saw in last night's "Wolfman's," or in the 8/7/09 or 5/28/11 "Gins" that are the class of 3.0.

The other thing to note about the set was that a promising, slowly building "Reba" jam was completely undermined by the crowd, which for no apparent reason lost its mind and began screaming, eventually drowning out the band, who seemed confused. This "Reba" was slllooooowww, like the Lawn Boy version, and was developing a silky and narcotic texture before the yelling started. Who knows what Phish actually thought about it, but as a practical matter that was basically it for the "Reba" jam, which was Fishcorded shortly thereafter.

But ultimately, the takeaway from tonight's show is that the second set didn't really deliver anything after a promising first 20 minutes. The "Golden Age" opener gave us some nice major-key soloing before dropping back into the main riff and letting Mike Gordon have some shine on the bass guitar. When Trey reemerged, he hinted at "Sand" before the groove collapsed, leading Trey to start "Waves." I love "Waves." It's sort of a shame that, as a consequence of Phish playing many fewer shows than they used to, "Waves" has been heard only 24 times in its entire performance history, fewer appearances than "Reba" or "Bowie" used to make on a given tour. You wonder how it would develop with more regular play. This "Waves" had a speedy tempo and a short, exciting middle jam, but no real final jam after the last chorus, only a short ambient bit before Trey got bored and started "Prince Caspian." And after that there's really nothing to report, a short set full of standard versions of decent songs that didn't jam. There are some setlist notes we could discuss if you're into that. It was a good Saturday night out, but not the sort of show, and especially second set, that you'd hope to see Phish play on December 29 at the World's Most Famous Arena.

Before you angrily disagree with me in the comments: like I said earlier, it's just one show, and it was still an excellent rock and roll concert by anyone's standards. It just wasn't anything memorable by Phish standards, even for 2012 Phish. I will be tuned in tomorrow and I see no reason not to expect something more in line with Friday night than with tonight.

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Comments

, comment by Brandonclick77
Brandonclick77 Ive always thought a New years run should deliver the goods as far as amazing jams and unique setlists, but the last few runs have been kinda duds... Mix it up,play a 4 song 1st set,bust out some Radiohead covers or do a 2nd set electro dance party,why the heck not??? It drives me nuts when I know this band is capable of so much more...
, comment by Jacculus
Jacculus Image
, comment by Miges311
Miges311 Im going to go ahead and angrily agree with you in the comments. Gin was good and left me craving a great set two and instead got basically a second set one.
, comment by Cantaloupe
Cantaloupe I begrudgingly admit there is a lot of truth to what you've said. A fair, and reasonable analysis, if a little overdone on the whole 29 thing, and the "even by 2012 standards" stuff.

Consistency and energy were the name of the game tonight. There may not have been peak moments like the previous night's Wolfman's or Tweezer, but the energy was there from start to finish tonight.

I found it to be quite well composed. An interesting and unique setlist that kept the energy up and was more focused on getting off than on getting deep. But I take it as one night of a four night run, from a band that focuses on making each night so distinct that they might as well be a different band each night.
, comment by sloth2112
sloth2112 Good post! Show lacked a flow/continuity.. Gin was okay, but not ripping. Golden age jam was pretty! Anyhow, hoping for a roaring 30th!
, comment by Jacculus
Jacculus Yikes. -2 for my apparent poor attempt at some levity. My sincere apologies to @sausagemahoney. Did not mean that as a knock on your well-written review.

I personally thought the show was underwhelming (from the couch) as well. However, I have a feeling it was one of those shows that would've been real fun to be at with the high level of energy.

Anyways sorry again.
, comment by sausagemahoney
sausagemahoney @Jacculus, please don't apologize, I didn't take it personally.
, comment by HST79
HST79 Like Sausage, I've been around since Gadiel's page was the site to go to for Phish info. as well as rec.music.phish. Since 95' I have always read reviews, I remember one I read in 97' of some fans bashing Phish for doing "Roses Are Free", which I took offense too being a Ween fan. Anyway, I used to pick apart every set list, note, flub and it does all come down to : Your Personal Experience At the Show. I've seen bad shows but had a great time, as well as GREAT shows but terrible times (Too crowded, Annoying people, etc...) I've learned to keep expectations lower and then hopefully be surprised. I watched tonight webcast and it did seem a bit "stock" but that's just our view. I can guarantee there were some newer fans that loved every minute of it and maybe had a mind blowing experience....like I did @ Deer Creek 95'. OK, I'll stop blathering...but I do KNOW this...Phish has already peaked, and there should be NO hopes out there that they will all of a sudden turn into the band they were in 94-97. Thanks. -Zane
, comment by lumpblockclod
lumpblockclod Outstanding review. Couldn't agree more. Let's hope last night proves to be the outlier. After all, Leg2 of Summer Tour, good as it was, had a few clunkers itself (OKC, BGCA2 etc.).
, comment by Sprachtor
Sprachtor Still having a hard time stomaching last night. Show gives a most historical date in Phish's history a bad name. But whatever, maybe I won't add this one to my shows seen.
, comment by llama
llama I think they know what they're doing up there.
, comment by PersnicketyJim
PersnicketyJim Well put review. One thing that stood out to me (on my couch) was how much Sugar Shack seemed to knock them off balance. They got comfortable and warm quickly by opening with Crowd Control and then nailed Mound. By placing Rock and Roll fourth, I thought they were making a statement and foreshadowing greatness. Then Trey and Mike chat and joke, Mike counts off...and the momentum was gone. I love the Joy version, but they simply can't play that song live.

I suspect the fact that they failed Shack again got into their heads and was responsible for the almost freakishly slow Reba. I was still excited, though, because I thought a chill Reba could set up an extra chill chill. And when Fishman transitioned to rimshots I rose to my feet. But it didn't go anywhere special, and part of me took the crowd's subsequent freak out that then occurred to be a collective kick to the band's behind—almost saying, 'c'mon, let's get this show on the road.' (If it was simply a glowstick war, then I think it was inappropriate, except that it may have been a sign that the band had lost control.)

I thought there were some great glimmers thereafter, and generally feel like it was a bookends show. The only other perspective I'd add is how much the decision to kill Waves with Caspian bothered me. What a missed opportunity to construct something memorable! Again, good review and tonight holds plenty of promise.

, comment by TwiceBitten
TwiceBitten I posted this to the review page:

I won't go so far as to call last night's Phish show disappointing. I got a face value ticket the day of and I danced till my knees were sore, but I could tell before the show was over that this was going to be a completely forgettable show. A fun rock concert for sure, but nothing that I'll come back to.

I actually think the band performed admirably given the very out-of-touch crowd response. At least twice during the show (during Reba, and I think Waves), the crowd started screaming for no apparent reason, and I think this really threw off the band. It's like the audience wanted the boys to ejaculate prematurely, and sure enough they did, time and again, spilling into big rock peaks in nearly every song. Problem was, each peak sounded the same as the last and only lasted for 45 seconds at a time.

To top it all off, the crowd was almost completely silent when Phish took the stage for their second set. I mean really, talk about showing enthusiasm in the right v.s. wrong places... I may be over-analyzing this all, but it really feels like the crowd didn't want or expect anything deep and thus were repaid with a very surface level show. I was feeling some of the same vibe on the 28th, but Phish played through it, giving us a broader range of musical offerings.

All that being said, the Golden Age > Waves deserves at least one listen. The Caspian had some decent trilling. Reba had a nice composed section, but a rather standard jam, with the whistling section starting 11:45 minutes into the tune. The encore was also really solid, with a nice spotlight on Page during Coil. The crowd went nuts when the band picked up their instruments again after Grind.

A high energy show for sure, but lacking considerably in substance. Definitely listen to 12/28 though, that show was great.
, comment by mcgrupp81
mcgrupp81 I was at last night's show. As for the knock on the random screaming that happened in Reba, that incident was a testament to the abundant energy that was flowing that night. I thought the 1st set was solid enough. I agree that the 2nd set was basically a second 1st set. The nail in the coffin was when Bug started. The crowd was waiting for anything, Hood, Yem, etc. and they went to Bug. I did enjoy the Golden Age/Waves segment and that Suzie jam was tight. I thought Kuroda was solid on lights last night, especially during Reba.

I think that the biggest thing here is that Phish is not playing fall tours anymore. The New Years runs suffer for it. I don't hold expectations for the next two shows, but hopefully they have at least one jam laden set.
, comment by 1_to_fluff
1_to_fluff I absolutely agree that the crowds screaming is what prompted phish to end that reba jam. And that really pissed me off. The same thing happened with the squirming coil after a few minutes of page bringing me to a state of musical bliss with his piano like he always does, everyone just started screaming and ruined it. I dont see how so many people can just be so disrespectful to the music.
, comment by ginseng_sullivan
ginseng_sullivan I agree with the review. But every Phish show is still a Phish show! So immediately it was awesome anyway. Looking for good things to come the next two nights!
, comment by gladtobeaglenn
gladtobeaglenn The author has removed all of the text from their comment
, comment by PhishMarketStew
PhishMarketStew Big difference between these 1st two shows. Where Fishman was loose and willing to follow on night 1 he seemed overly concise and unwilling to change the beat anywhere during night 2's performance. Page and Trey really didn't seem to be listening to one another and Mike was either out front in the lead or doing his own thing. The Suzy sounded so interesting because nobody seemed to playing off of one another, just independently of one another. There were some highlights like that rapacious Gin, parts of Golden Age and that Waves outro but all in all it sounded like a totally different show. Expect big things these next two nights though, especially from Light & Ghost.
, comment by gladtobeaglenn
gladtobeaglenn Agree with OP. I was at this show and was also confused by the mass freak out during the quiet space in Reba. I thought it was a glow stick war, but I didn't see anything out of the ordinary. This was a show with little or no flow. Fast songs followed by slow songs with abrupt segues connecting. Also, Trey flubbed the start of Squirming Coil. All in all, I thought 12/28 was more solid, especially from Wolfman on. Also, is it asking too much to expect at least one or two breakouts or new tunes during a 4 night run?! Did they rehearse at all before this run??
, comment by ObviousFool
ObviousFool I'm gonna have to agree for the most part that while the show had its moments, the final effect was mediocrity at its finest. Crowd Control opener....Sugar Shack derailment....still some beautiful jamming out of Golden Age to start the 2nd set...sounds familiar to me....like 2nd night at Bill Graham...you know what happened next? 3rd night Bill Graham. I have a feeling the boys are just fine and planning to melt some faces tonight. Oom pa pa bitches.
, comment by doglogin
doglogin You all do realize that these are (almost) 50 year old guys playing up there. They also have to save some songs for a three set NYE show. I think the two big culprits for the disappointment are: 1. fans think that Phish is ageless and can still jam like they were in their 20's so expectations are WAY too high. 2. I think the band would benefit from dropping a day and just doing 3 shows.
I wouldn't go as far to say that last night was awful. The second set definitely lacked flow, but the playing was fine and they seemed to be having a great time up there. I think that people need to leave their stopwatches at home and just go with it. A 20minute version of a song does not automatically qualify it into Phishtory.
I still think that the first night (28th) was a fantastic show! Last night was a good show.
Keep the vibes positive and just have fun!
Happy New Year!!
, comment by MiguelSanchez
MiguelSanchez don't sleep on 12/29/98. that show was the real deal. other than extending the 12/29 goodness out one more year, i agree with that review.
, comment by jagxjr84
jagxjr84 I'm not sure I can agree with everyone here. I think if you take into account Page's comment to on the pre-show interview on 12/28 saying he's having the best time of his life, and the setlist from 12/29 -- it was definitely his show to shine. Wading, Waves, Coil and others -- he really shined.

A nod to Kuroda too, the lights - especially the background "space" look during Hailey's, the blue and turquoise during Waves and the Rainbow mix during 46 days were all beautiful.

Granted, I was not old enough to have seen them in the early 90's, and my first shows were in the few years prior to the hiatus, but what I've seen from them this year, including the last two nights has been great.

Maybe the web-casts are not doing justice to the shows, but the crowd energy was palpable and the show was awesome, if even just short of legendary.
, comment by walstib
walstib One has no chance of enjoying the moment at hand if they are continually waiting for a different moment.

Seems to me people want something specific that fits into the boxes of "Ok for first set" or "OK for second set" or "their supposed to play this way in the 2nd set" that they cannot enjoy whatever comes their way, whenever it comes their way.

If a song is enjoyable its enjoyable, no matter when it's played. If you're night can be ruined by song placement than you probably shouldn't bother at all because the band will do whatever they please and you'll still be waiting. I will never understand how the previous song makes a damn bit of difference to the current song, hence the term set killer.

Must suck to live that way.
, comment by Dressed_In_Gray
Dressed_In_Gray With all the encore time they had available, I was waiting for Harpua which would tell the story of how Jimmy went to MSG to play a New Years Show and stunk up the joint.
, comment by BurningShoreProphet
BurningShoreProphet ok so last night wont go into the record books. agree with most of the criticism of the lack of flow, etc. but 3 observations

1. Mcgrupp81 nailed it. no fall tour preceeding a NYE run absolutely affects the bands' chops/comfort level.
2. I still can not understand why 8.18.12 gets trashed here. BCG#2 was a totally solid show, and deserves a re-listen (ESP set 1) if you don't believe me. oh well :)
3. the random screaming during Reba appeared to be related to s glowstick war (webcast perspective)

carry on wayward sons (and daughters)
, comment by doglogin
doglogin I agree!!@walstib said:
One has no chance of enjoying the moment at hand if they are continually waiting for a different moment.

Seems to me people want something specific that fits into the boxes of "Ok for first set" or "OK for second set" or "their supposed to play this way in the 2nd set" that they cannot enjoy whatever comes their way, whenever it comes their way.

If a song is enjoyable its enjoyable, no matter when it's played. If you're night can be ruined by song placement than you probably shouldn't bother at all because the band will do whatever they please and you'll still be waiting. I will never understand how the previous song makes a damn bit of difference to the current song, hence the term set killer.

Must suck to live that way.
, comment by TwiceBitten
TwiceBitten @walstib said:
One has no chance of enjoying the moment at hand if they are continually waiting for a different moment.
I honestly don't think that was most people's problem with this show. I, for one, always have a blast at the show and it was clear that the crowd was lit up last night. I enjoy every song in some way or another, but during post show or playback reflection, there's nothing wrong with bemoaning a lack of jams. That is why last night's show was bellow average. Nothing to do with song selection (well, not 100% to with...)
, comment by rackham
rackham I was there last night... Reading many of these reviews; I find myself wanting to say, "Put down your calculators and listen to the music." I apologize if that seems obnoxious.

Did anyone hear the beautiful story that swirled through that 2nd set?
Does it always need to be heat and funk?
Why do we spend so much time complaining?
Why do we keep coming back for more?

I don't know about everyone else, but I truly feel like I got something special from the show last night; specifically during the 2nd set.

Was it just the drugs, or the lack there of..?

P.S. I'm not sure if this was revealed in this forum; but the roars that may or may not have sank Reba were caused by a massive onslaught of green glow sticks that erupted from the back right corner of the arena.
, comment by whatstheuse324
whatstheuse324 Mike Gordon needs to wear the scarf again and everything will be alright. Believe in the scarf.
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown @walstib said:
One has no chance of enjoying the moment at hand if they are continually waiting for a different moment.

Seems to me people want something specific that fits into the boxes of "Ok for first set" or "OK for second set" or "their supposed to play this way in the 2nd set" that they cannot enjoy whatever comes their way, whenever it comes their way.

If a song is enjoyable its enjoyable, no matter when it's played. If you're night can be ruined by song placement than you probably shouldn't bother at all because the band will do whatever they please and you'll still be waiting. I will never understand how the previous song makes a damn bit of difference to the current song, hence the term set killer.

Must suck to live that way.
You seem pretty enlightened.
, comment by Laurville
Laurville I semi-followed Set I on Couch Tour. My iPad was up and I could see the show but I had it muted while my wife finished up Die Hard 2, which isn't the worst sequel ever made. I didn't see anything on Twitter or hear anything when I'd crank up the volume and check in that really stood out for me even though a lot of the songs are songs I really like to hear live.

For Set II I went upstairs, took a PM sinus med and melted into my bed. I loved the Golden Age opener and the decision to run it into Waves, which as OP mentioned is sadly underplayed. At that point, I felt my cold slipping away and I lost track of anything and fell asleep. In slumber I do not recollect any type II jamming, ripcords, or Bieber sightings. However, I could not open my high school locker and whatever I was looking for in there felt really important.
, comment by beanholestatus
beanholestatus the cheering during reba i thought was a peak moment, i really dont think the band was confused so i dont get why yer saying that, were you their or did you webcast it because ive been seeing alot of shitty reviews and its usually from people who have webcasted..
, comment by SerNelson_TheBrave
SerNelson_TheBrave But what about those red pants on Gordo.
, comment by gladtobeaglenn
gladtobeaglenn Please disregard the comments I made in the above post. Who am I to pass judgement on the musicians? I love Phish, and will accept any show, good or great or not-so great - I was very depressed when they were on "hiatus", so I have to remember that just having the opportunity to see them is all I desire. Sorry and please forgive me! Can't wait to see them tonight!
, comment by rusty
rusty Reading many of these reviews; I find myself wanting to say, "Put down your calculators and listen to the music."

Could not agree more! IMO, some folks think that the more negatively they critique a show, the more intelligent they seem or that it somehow "proves" they have great musical taste or something. What, do some of you guys have a PHD in Phish Studies from Phish University?
These negative comments sort of remind me of the character described in "Brian & Robert". What ever happened to surrendering to the flow? Or, as the Talking Heads once suggested, that we "Stop Making Sense"?
I like to hear people discuss the relative merits/demerits of the music i love, but some of the negative comments on here the last 2 days just sound like a lot of whining from people who've been spoiled by the riches that Phish has bestowed upon all of us for the last however many years we've each been following them. How lucky we all are to have something so wonderful to complain about!

, comment by preyingmantits
preyingmantits Might sound weird but I felt there were a lot of people at the show who were not vets. More well dressed chicks drinking wine etc... Not that I would rather be partying with a bunch of wooks but it seemed like it was a "saturday night" NYC party crowd.
As far as the cheering I thought it was strange but I definitely think it was because of a random glow stick war going on at the back of the arena ... plus the crowd was amped and ready to go off ...
Night 1 had more mistakes but had way more high points. Last night was fun but just that .. nothing worth downloading except maybe the Gin ...

Hope they rip it up tonight

, comment by sausagemahoney
sausagemahoney Hey, I fully cop to having expectations and preferences when I see Phish. Don't we all? That doesn't mean I can't enjoy different kinds of shows (mellow, rocking, goofy), but ultimately I see Phish for the improvisation and risk-taking. I understand not wanting to see even moderately critical reviews of a band we all love, but it's a little weird to read comments taking issue with the overall approach of the recap without really disagreeing about the merits of the music.
, comment by gettinweird
gettinweird first time i have felt the need to post on an internet forum about a phish show.

the energy in the crowd was incredible. the reba "outburst" was just one of those "in the moment" type of reactions a group of people have when they collectively feel excitement. it didn't throw the band off. watch mkdevo's video on youtube. i was on the floor (west GA) and had no idea about the green glow stick explosion, but if that had something to do with it, it just added fuel to the fire already burning in the crowd. the gin was great. the Suzy had "more cowbell." the boogie-> suzy, while short, was groovin.

to me it seems as though (and this is not an attack on anyone), it's hard (near impossible?) to understand from your couch what the mood/energy (what-have-you) inside a building is unless you are there.

last night was better than people are breaking it down to be.
, comment by beargonefishin
beargonefishin They don't practice or care enough to be what they used to be. Admit it and go on as hard as it is to admit. Just glad I was on tour from 96 - 99
, comment by rusty
rusty It seems there is a big divide between those who were at the show(s) and had a generally positive view and those who were watching/listening at home and didn't care much for the shows. Which, i dont think can be overlooked. At home, it is so easy to get distracted etc. whereas, at the show I can't think of any place i would rather be. And I don't recall a time at any of the shows I've been to where I was angry or bummed because they cut a jam short or played some tunes that I don't like (which is a pretty short list). But IMO, what happens AT the show between the band and audience is what really matters most---because it IS so fleeting and unique (and by unique, I mean the actual experience of being there, hearing it as it happens, the way it sounded/felt to your own senses). I mean, it is so easy (and fun) to lose oneself in the music at the show without looking at Phish stats, Phish most-recent-time-played charts, looking at your watch to see how long this Tweezer jam is etc...
However, if one must engage in "ranking" the overall performance, doesn't the music deserve more than a one time listen/kneejerk reaction, especially if folks are going to throw around phrases like "best 3.0 version ever!" etc. ? Shouldn't the tapes be allowed to age a bit first?
, comment by gettinweird
gettinweird @rusty said:
It seems there is a big divide between those who were at the show(s) and had a generally positive view and those who were watching/listening at home and didn't care much for the shows. Which, i dont think can be overlooked. At home, it is so easy to get distracted etc. whereas, at the show I can't think of any place i would rather be. And I don't recall a time at any of the shows I've been to where I was angry or bummed because they cut a jam short or played some tunes that I don't like (which is a pretty short list). But IMO, what happens AT the show between the band and audience is what really matters most---because it IS so fleeting and unique (and by unique, I mean the actual experience of being there, hearing it as it happens, the way it sounded/felt to your own senses). I mean, it is so easy (and fun) to lose oneself in the music at the show without looking at Phish stats, Phish most-recent-time-played charts, looking at your watch to see how long this Tweezer jam is etc...
However, if one must engage in "ranking" the overall performance, doesn't the music deserve more than a one time listen/kneejerk reaction, especially if folks are going to throw around phrases like "best 3.0 version ever!" etc. ? Shouldn't the tapes be allowed to age a bit first?
this.

and, conversely, i have been to shows where i remember being enamored by a jam and then on second, third, etc listen, realize it doesn't stack up to others. but that's the beauty (IMO) of being at the show. in the moment. on some level, the "as it's happening-ness" of a live show allows you to lose yourself in the music for a time, and not need to think of how it stacks up against other renditions.
, comment by VItaminwater
VItaminwater "Retire Bug"

Not sorry :/
, comment by Harry__Hood95
Harry__Hood95 @gettinweird said:


to me it seems as though (and this is not an attack on anyone), it's hard (near impossible?) to understand from your couch what the mood/energy (what-have-you) inside a building is unless you are there.

last night was better than people are breaking it down to be.
the thing is...i don't need to "understand the energy" to know if the band is pushing the envelope and taking chances. If anything, I have a BETTER understanding of the actual music, because my view isn't blurred by drugs, alcohol or the collective joy of partying with 20K other fans. I haven't read a single review or complaint about the show that inferred it wasn't a good time. But while I will be purchasing N3 from LivePhish immediately, I probably won't even bother downloading an AUD of N2 because there just wasn't anything worth re-listening to.
, comment by phishroc
phishroc Good review. I have not heard the show yet. cheap as I am. however, you did inspire me to blare 12/29/97. I thought this was an honest review, you brought forth many valid points which you have obviously researched thoroughly.

Your idea of "Height vs. Width" got me thinking. The planar features versus the mountain building features as geology students might say. When you say 'low points' what do you mean? I guess this means to me, not so good, or 'less good'. This to me is a very different way of looking at a show, albeit a phish show. Not a bad way of course. Hi's and the lo's i guess is how most would interpret your ideas. I think you may be analyzing it a little too much, I really am not being negative in this statement. A phish show has to be a real stinker for me to not like it. two cents.
, comment by Fluffyfluffyhead
Fluffyfluffyhead Those darn expectations are clouding the view again...
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @Fluffyfluffyhead said:
Those darn expectations are clouding the view again...
Thanks for that.....a phish show is like sex....when it's good it's really good and when it's bad it's still pretty darn good.

Listening to some of your high-brow criticisms is sort of like sitting in on Ivy League professors debate the merits of social welfare programs while choking on martini's.

That being said....who can resist the charm of it all?
, comment by MDosque
MDosque Just a quick gripe, but no big deal - with such an elaborate discussion around the history of 12/29 shows, why on earth would you totally skip and fail to mention my first ever show on 12/29/96. I think that is really weird. It was kind of noteworthy too, with a rotation jam and twisted Harpua. Just sayin.

But thanks for the write up - I found it interesting and helpful. I sat this one out totally on the couch tour and have a good idea how it went. Thanks for taking the time, but give 12/29/96 some LOVE damn it!

Sincerely,
Dosque
, comment by matt_mc
matt_mc almost every poor review I've read for this show is from somebody who webcasted it. I'm in the camp that you just shouldn't review a show unless you were there. It's as if you are a restaurant critic, and you have to review a new spot that just opened. Instead of sitting at a table and eating, you take the food to go, drive a half an hour to your home, and complain that the food was cold. I understand where the reviews may be coming from. Musically, it wasn't the boys' best night. BUT, I was at all 4 nights, and in my opinion, the energy in MSG for 12/29 was at it's highest. The crowd took in this energy and ran with it. what else can explain 21,000+ people all freaking out at the same exact moment during Reba? The energy during Suzy was unbelievable as well. I just feel that one can't really tap into the energy of a show from a couch. Will I have this show in my rotation of shows that I listen to? Probably not. But after seeing 82 shows, I've rarely experienced the amount of pure positive energy floating around a building than I did on 12/29. If you were in the building, you probably felt this energy as well.

just my two cents
, comment by lititzphan
lititzphan I am blessed to have the opportunity to once again see this band. My 1st show was philly 2 03, was at It, last show philly 11 03 also caught Greensboro and 1st Camden so 03 is all I have personal experience from. I'm an old deadhead, got on the bus city island 83. I used to get upset when everyone would bash a show compared to "how it used to be". I was in prison when Jerry died, I knew of phish then, but didn't realize they would become such a part of my life later on down this road. What a joy to have been to so many good shows thru the years. Yes some weren't as strong as others but treasure what you have for the moment, cause someday that moment will be gone.
This was my 1st time in NYC, and will probably only ever be back for Phish. I was behind stage so I can say it would have been better to be GA or out front. Yes Gin could of jammed 5 more minutes.
The energy from the crowd was there except at 2nd set start,more energy at a nursing home. This band feeds off the crowd, give the love, receive the love.
Next year I hope to make new years, looking forward to next run, this band is blowing me away compared to the dead @ 30 years Safe travels to all
, comment by RunawayJim
RunawayJim Was "PHISH" spelled out on the screens above the band when the crowd had an outburst? I was sitting behind the stage and only learned CK5 did that after the show when some random chick was showing me her pics. Otherwise, that outburst confused most of us behind the stage because the band was not doing anything overly different/special at the time. So the only thing I can attribute it to is maybe PHISH appearing on the screens because that does cause outbursts like that.
, comment by TwistedAndFlailing
TwistedAndFlailing Howdy Folks,
I was lucky enough to catch the first two nights of the run and for some reason have some large disagreements with many a persons view on the second night. The first night was a work of Phish genius. Amps were cranked up as all hell and my ears were ringing throughout the night following the show. I went with two buddies who ended up going to a DiscoBiscuits show after which I find to be completely mind blowing. Being 21 years old I never got a real chance to get into the band before 2004, however my father did in fact drag me up to Coventry for that last weekend of true Phish magic. Being a New Englander there is something truly mystical to me about Phish.
I felt as if the Friday show was a true performance similar to that of and Opera or Broadway show, if you webcasted you can have no idea. There seemed to be a large amount of rich New York banker types there with there exceptionally pretty girlfriends, and to me thats what the band was trying to get across, especially with the theme which wasn't my favorite at all but it made quite a bit of sense especially with the boxes upstairs lit up and with TVs on. No matter Fluff was the best I've heard and Page absolutely tore down the house with Maze> Twist. Moma Dance was my highlight of the first set but I'm always a happy camper when Trey lets loose on Kill Devil.
Onto night two. There seemed to be a fire in the crowd that night and possibly quite a few more doses in peoples bodies and minds. It seemed to me that the band was trying to truly engage the elder heads and get some sing songing going on but at this point the peeps with money to go to a NYR show seem to be younger and far less engaged in the scene, using it as somewhat of a way to be different but never really getting into the show, or knowing how to. I had to copp one of the cheaper tickets so I was at the far back of 214 diagonal to the back of the stage but honestly loved the spot, I had my jam space and wasn't burning up. The first set to me was a call from the band to get everyone truly engaged or even a question if its worth it for them to carry on further with their careers. To me Wading in the Velvet defined that question. I remember Coventry, my first show, where almost 60,000 phans were helping the band through an emotional song, but they made it. Page seemed to be keeping it low along with the rest of the band hoping for all of MSG to get on it and make some real magic, but it never came. I really did love this Saturday show even though it wasn't mind blowing, maybe it was the lights that seemed to be constantly asking the question "what do you expect from us?" Second set I made it down to the 100's front row and at Caspian I was so entralled I threw my hat into the crowd. Maybe next show I'll chill out on the L but this was one night to get yourself right and twisted. I think the problem with the band at this point really has to be the people going to shows. Either their jaded vets or younger kids getting into the scene post 09 and really not knowing what the band is all about. It befuddles me when everyone spanks their meat to '97, I have to say of everything I've ever listened to I wish I was back in 1994 getting down and following the band wherever they happened to go. I think this saturday show had the sloppiness of '94 but the magic of everything that came after. Could have been a better show but absolutely not a dud.
Peace and love,
RDL
, comment by Clodd
Clodd All is balance, duality, they are necessary to the whole. Could be simple (light/ dark) or a bit complex (humble thankful reviews/ judgmental dissatisfied reviews). I feel this true about most things in life. When something has such a great amount of positive energy (love) it seems it is countered with a almost equally opposite negative energy (fear, frustration, even downright hate?). The boys are only human like all of us, and I am soo thankful to be able to share in the groove with them and all of you whenever I get the chance. I got into the first three nights at face last year day of each show it was incredible. However NYE 2011 I saw some things I that weighted my heart. There were these Thugish guys who had no other reason to be there other than to make that paper "$500 bucks man", "$1000 bucks you and your girl man". We all know how big especially (granted Phish is an empire) the new years run at the garden has become. Getting tickets through the lottery and in general before the show has become increasingly hard and It has become very profitable for many a business men big and small. The saddest thing I saw were vets frustrated saying things like "thats it I'm never coming back to the Garden", "This is ridiculous, it's not the same". I think the bigness, the money, the frustration of all phans go through to get in to see the boys with the rest of the Pham, among other factors are big contributors to how things are way different than they probably were in the early/mid 90's. Change is inevitable and is part of balance. I feel like Phish had a blast this last year, and this coming year as we all know brings the 30th year of Phish (with many more to come fingers crossed). It can be a challenge, but we can focus on all that is good in the scene and cherish it. To all that manipulate the hearts of heads for big profit I think you bad crook, and disappointed phans I mustn't even inquire, WE CAN STILL HAVE PHUN!!!!!

P.S. I mean c'mon guys they staged a Runaway Golf Cart Marathon
, comment by ELevine86
ELevine86 Are people really serious about this Reba thing? You really think a band that has been playing improvisational music to crowds of up to 80-90,000 were thrown that off guard from a crowd eruption? The truth is, with a few exceptions, Reba jams are not what they used to be in terms of peaks (same with Hood). Trey builds and builds nicely and then more often than not, can't bring it to a peak that doesn't contain 37 wrong/missed notes.

Anywho, personally I thought 12/29 was a fun show. People talking shiz about the second set were probably not there. I'm someone who often complains about the lack of jams but that second set just flowed so nicely with LOTS of great energy. And no one wants to mention that 46 Days 1st set closer?!

Can we make a new rule that in order to blog a review of a show, that person had to of been at the show. Makes sense.
 
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