, attached to 2010-12-27

Review by waxbanks

waxbanks (Before we continue, read Andrew Rose's review, to which I say YES, MOSTLY.)

It's a weird night that counts Roggae, Mountains in the Mist, and Wading in the Velvet Sea among its highlights - and weirder still when a NYE Phish run kicks off with the mellowest, most delicate show in a decade.

The Worcester shows (both of which I had the privilege of seeing) sure look weird on paper, and the MSG highlights (Simple > Sally, Ghost, Tweezer > Light, etc.) seem to be hogging fan attention, but the best of this night is equal to the best of 2010 without question. What's more, this show achieves greatness in a manner unlike any other this year. Despite a few uneven moments, I can't recommend it highly enough.

There's some fine upbeat playing here (definitely check out Cool It Down in the first), but I like the mellow tunes best of all on this night. This best-ever Roggae floats from delicate interplay to harrowing intensity and back in nine of the year's most interesting musical minutes; Mountains is hushed, intricate, welcoming ensemble music; Farmhouse and Wading both descend magically (atypically) into soft spacious jams rather than riding Trey's guitar crescendos; and of course the uplifting -7 jam is built around a WTU-like major chord progression that gives way to a soaring, enveloping take on the thing itself.

That said, the second set draws some of its power from its up/down/up structure, and the up bits sure are up: Mike's > Mound > (experimental) Weekapaug is all ferocious energy, then we enter the subterranean Farmhouse/-7/WTU/20YL/Wading passage before emerging for a closing Possum/Cavern/Bowie triptych. (In keeping with the tone of the night, Bowie is all understated complexity.)

Tuesday night's Hood jam has already entered into the 'best things they've ever done' canon, but this hushed outing shows Phish's extraordinary maturity and (unexpected) restraint. For such a legendarily musically indulgent band, they generate tremendous power at low volume; the dynamic range here nearly equals that of 6/14/00, and if the jams are less expansive now, they're no less deep (and vastly more emotionally rich, as I hear them). Never in 15 years of seeing and hearing this band would I have imagined making a mix of the *ballads* from a Phish show, but that's been my preferred way of revisiting this one during (say) nighttime bike rides after baby falls asleep. They're not a young band anymore, not by a longshot; now more than ever, Phish are making music by and for grownups. And they extend the invitation to their still-young audience to come on along and join them, step by step, no hurry, one free flight or feather fall at a time. Maybe their best days are behind them; maybe they're happening right now, or yet to come. The answer has always been the music, now and next. Hush now and listen.


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