, attached to 2016-01-02

Review by Slewfoot

Slewfoot They did it.

Those were the words that came into my mind as the band was walking off the stage. A tremendous, beast of a show. It's nights like this that keep us coming back again and again. The feeling of effortless flow was oozing from the boys all night long. It was a whirlwind of emotional intensity wrapped in a sinewy, groovalicious package. One of those nights where they could do no wrong. No train wrecks and any minor flubs were quickly forgiven and / or turned into something fun. Easily in the top handful of shows I've seen since 94.

Expectations were high for this night and considering the arsenal of songs they had available we figured it could be a special one. Your Pet Cat served as a killer opener and turned out to be the only song of 3.0 and 2.0 (!!!). We were around 12th row center on the floor and when the shrieking meow blasted out I had never heard anything as loud at a Phish show. I took that as a good omen. The AC/DC Bag was mellow and laid back with a similar pace of 12-30-97. NICU always gets everyone moving and even with a few Trey struggles it kept its good vibe. Trey threw in some extra notes towards the end, perhaps an apology for the off chords earlier. It's Ice is always welcome and while not as bombastic as The Mann version this summer still a blast to hear. I love seeing Horn in a place like MSG. Really allows it to strut its arena rock feel.

When they started up Divided Sky it became obvious that this was no normal show. They nailed all the changes in the first 1/3 of the song and then things quieted down and began to get interesting. Being so close I finally understood the long pauses in Divided. Trey's face was going through an array of smiles and flutters as the crowd sent waves of noise over him. He seemed to be so overcome that he missed the re-entry note! But as the jam picked up steam the roof finally blew off the place. The energy from here on out seemed to be at another level. During the longer than usual pause afterwards, I had fears they might go into something new and slow, but then they blasted into Axilla!!! They were now in full beast mode. The music was massive and chunky. The actually sound quality seemed to possibly improve as well. Then came a sick, sick Maze with Page and Trey having a wonderful duel back and forth. They kept on picking it up and up and nailed the changes. So many songs in this set required old school precision. They were definitely in a mood. Train Song was gorgeous with wonderful brush work from Fishman and a rockin, swingin Julius closed out the set. Just a great friggin first set.

The Tweezer that opened the second set was a monster. Of all the old school songs in their repertoire, I feel that Tweezer had improved more than any other. The actual song has more a choppy backbeat to it and is always super, super tight these days. They were locked in on this version from note one. You knew it was gonna be a good one and the jam got serious almost immediately similar to the Chalkdust from 12/30. There were so many peaks and valleys of different styles. Trey even started going off on a variation of the 2015 Dick's DWD jam, but playing around it without the peak. I also heard a moment reminiscent of the RANA song "Whenever You Can." The one part that sticks out for though me was this bluesy swagger Trey got into that turned into a bit of a start / stop jam. It reminded me of a combination of the Grateful Dead's "It's a Sin Jam" from 6-18-74 and the end of the Weekapaug from 12-31-95 when Trey got into this bluesy reggae stomp. Killer stuff and can't wait to relisten.

The boys then segued (in more of a true segue than usual) into Sand which was slow and drippy and bouncy. They were in the groove. Such a fun song for the band to play around with. Limb by Limb was its usual surprisingly special self. Always love this song. Fishman's drumming was in fine form. I closed my eyes for most of the song and felt like I was standing on a beach with a forest on one side and the ocean on the other and the music was making the two move and gel into each other. All that and no psychedelics needed!

They then slammed into a thrilling Suzy Greenberg. The bluesy aspect continued here and the pace was perfect. Not fast like 90's versions, but enough to make us all dance hard while retaining a swinging groove. Another beast of a song. The feeling of this version was reminiscent of the Dead's "One More Saturday Night" from 5-8-77 Cornell. High praise, indeed.

When Trey leaned into Fishman I thought to myself that a Hood would be perfect right about now and then voila! They started taking the jam out there into new unexplored territories pretty quickly. They lost their footing here and there, but always found their ground immediately thereafter. The ending came somewhat abruptly, but nothing to complain about. I saw Trey shrug while mentioning the next song to Page and thought to myself that a YEM would be perfect right about now and then voila again! This version smoked. Had everything you want in a great YEM. They nailed the peaks and the jam was taken further and further with Mike doing one of his finest solos I've heard while Trey joined Fishman on drums. Sickness. The vocal jam was the only moment of the show where being that close was almost too intense. It was a full six minutes of scary intensity with each haunted house they entered zanier than the previous one. I can't recall seeing a wilder vocal jam.

On the 30th my buddy and I were talking about songs we'd like to see and on the way into the show on the train I was chatting with some guys and they asked what was the one song I really wanted to hear tonight. My responses? Lizards. Never would have guessed that they would play it as an encore. A perfect spot for it. Old school nostalgic Phish with the entire audience singing along and raging. Special.

And you know it was a good show when you completely forget that Tweezer Reprise is coming. I was ready to pack it in at Lizards when suddenly the chords began. Another tremendous monster version that made me very, very happy to be on the floor jumping up and down.

As I was walking out through the MSG corridors, the post-show glow was in full effect. I felt like I was floating. Not surprisingly, all that my friends and I could talk about was the show itself over late night beers. It's going to take a while for the glow of this night to fade.

They did it.


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