, attached to 2002-12-31

Review by FunkyCFunkyDo

FunkyCFunkyDo Fresh off of a 2+ year hiatus to engage in much needed cleanse of their (and our) respective body, mind, and soul, Phish returned to the biggest stage imaginable: Madison Square Garden on New Years Eve. Talk about making a statement. Having not played together publicly in nearly 26 months, Phish jumped right into the deep end. Even before a note was played, Phish was making a statement that they are back, unafraid, and ready to reinvigorate themselves and their fans.

A scorching 15-minute Piper exploded out of the gates. Rust? What rust? This Piper was lubed up and down with a volatile concoction of WD-40 and C4. They. Were. Back. Although not quite on the same level as the Hampton Fluffhead, this Piper was nothing short of incendiary. Wasting no time to showcase that they still had chops, Phish drops right into Guyute. A well-performed Guyute, near perfectly executed, and with two songs we had our band back. Interweaving fun crowd pleasers (NICU and Wilson) into another composed beauty (Horn) Phish was piecing together a first set that showcased just about everything we could want to hear: power jams, compositions, fun songs, old classics, and antics (as Trey joking introduced "Tom Hanks" complete with a Wilson volleyball snippet from the movie Castaway... these guys are so much fun!) Mound hits next and has flaws, but they are excusable after the fire of the first 45 minutes. Mound, in and of itself though, is always a treat. Coil comes in next and seems to cap a perfectly economical, a perfectly fiery, and a perfectly crafted "welcome home" set. But then we get Bowie. This swirling Bowie contains jamming that could be considered apprehensive, or anxious, but not without passion as it takes an edge meant to conclude what Piper started: Phish is back, and they mean business.

Fresh off of the new album Round Room, an intricate, hypnotic Waves starts out Set 2. The first new song to be played off of the album strikes a chord immediately. What a version! Fans of Waves must seek out this version, as it ebbs and flows and bobs as if the band were performing it upon the Atlantic itself. Waves evaporates into another compositional beauty - Divided Sky. Well executed and containing a truly inspired, soaring jam segment the DS hit a sentimental note unparalleled at the time, with the pause being one of the most sentimentally raucous pauses they've ever engaged in. The antics too return to the stage, with Page crooning us with Lawn Boy before ripping into an evil Carini. Carini in 2003 was not like Carini in 2013 onward. These Carinis never went into major key territory, they were dark, gritty, and nasty. They were meant to be evil. This one was evil. Not exactly a show stopper, but it did indeed showcase a ying to the Piper and Wave's yang. Rift hit next and was relatively benign, I personally found it's placement a little awkward but who I am to judge. Harry Hood saunters into what we would again be fooled as a "set closer" just as Coil did in the first set. This Hood, although not the highest peak, is brimming with happiness and joyful sound. Phish just sounds happy to be playing Harry Hood again. Hood peaks and drops into a raging and unexpected Character Zero, and just like that we return to intermission being equal parts wow-ed and amazed. We are so happy they are playing music again... good music at that!

Sample starts out Set 3 with a fantastic singalong, get-the-blood-flowing rendition that was precisely what the doctor ordered. It united the fans and band in chorus and groove. Very celebratory. Seven Below comes in next, the second Round Room song performed, and this was peppered right along with pretty nifty playing from Trey and Page. Mike doesn't stray too far, but much like Waves in Set 2, this version truly breathes in and breathes out with effortless efficiency, making for a nice little groove accompaided by "snowfall" from the rafters of MSG. I wasn't there but I have seen videos -- what a magical version this must have been to be grooving to Seven Below during a snowfall. Phish makes magic. The snowfall melts into Auld Lang Syne and just like that, we are there ringing in the new year - there is no other place any of us would have rather been. Runaway Jim gets the dance flowing again! A super spunky version, this Jim really rocks and rolls. A truly fantastic segue into Time Loves a Hero puts an exclamation point on the New Years Eve festivities, but really, the set is not even close to done as Taste swirls into the rotation. Syncopated and rhythmic, Taste hits on some original playing that is dazzling, albeit not mindblowing. However, that deep in the third set, Taste was a perfectly placed jam. Strange Design gave us a very pretty respite before Walls of the Cave sends us home... er, sends us to SPACE! This Walls is BALLS TO THE WALL PSYCHEDELIA!!! Please seek this out to have your mind f***ed. Wow! Wading closes the show, and though it doesn't look good on paper, they could have come out and just said "Thank you" (they did) and not played a song and we would have been happy. This sentimental send off was just right for the occasion.

Must-hear jams: Piper, Waves, Runaway Jim -> Time Loves a Hero, Walls of the Cave
Probably-should-listen-to jams: Wilson (for antics), Divided Sky, Carini, Seven Below


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