, attached to 2016-12-28

Review by TimbersGottaRoll

TimbersGottaRoll 12/28/16
MSG

Set 1

Star Spangled Banner (2:40) - Poignant opener that no one saw coming. This was a statement opener that spoke volumes. No matter what happened politically in this country over the last election season it does not change the fact that Phish is an American-band and damn proud of that fact. Great way to get everyone on the same page before they even picked up their instruments. Also, it signaled that the cover drought at MSG was now a thing of the past.

Stealing Time From a Faulty Plan (5:52) - Sentiment continues into next song choice. Playing is tight and Trey tears into the jam with focused phrasing and an overall punchy tone courtesy of new amplifier and overdrive pedal.

Lonesome Cowboy Bill (3:11) - Anyone wondering if Phish would be consciously attempting to break their record for most unique songs in one year had to feel like they were getting their answer with this song choice. Fishman's vocals on the VU classic are spirited and devoid of irony. This is a joyful performance of a rarely performed rocker that kept the vibe light, playful and upbeat.

Free (8:46) - mid-90's classic kicked off a run of 3 straight Billy Breathes tunes. Free rarely fails to get everyone in the venue locked in and this was no exception. Crowd began to show signs of life here with intermittent roars and overall jubilation throughout.

Train Song (3:02) - Trey went over and spent a good 30 seconds convincing Mike to play this one. Mike said yes, thanks Red. Rarely played but always welcome this wasn't played perfectly, with some lyrical flubs, but it was most definitely heartfelt and appreciated by the rapt audience.

Prince Caspian (8:23) - Great crowd sing-a-long in opening vocals with Trey sporting a giant grin throughout. The jam section unfurls patiently with Trey playing minimally, snaking languid lines in and around the chunk of the rhythm. Page's playing is assertive and his lines fly side-by-side with Trey's leads. They settle into quiet dissolving ambience before kicking back into an uproar to finish the tune.

Roggae (10:07) - Galloping version that doesn't drag thanks to Fish's right hand and Mike's undulations. Trey's soloing is full of peaks and emotion employing some Winterqueen phrasing before rapid fire cry-to-the-sky machine gun bliss brings the jam to a glorious climax.

Funky Bitch (6:38) - Some band conversing ensues for a minute before dropping into the Son Seals funk classic. Page's organ solo kicks off the jam and the dance party is in full swing. Mike holds the vocal note for what seems like an eternity before Trey comes in guns blazing. Can't say enough about the thickness and growl of Trey's tone with new rig setup. High end shriek is nowhere to be found, just the cut and slice of powerful mid-range dynamics howling through the arena.

Halfway to the Moon (10:03) - Page's turn to take the lead and this turns out to be the most exciting version of this tune ever played. The only version to date which tops the nine minute mark. Fish rolls the band into the jam and the propels the entirety of the extended improv with fluid fills. Trey feeds off Fish's energy, peaking the jam multiple times before crossing the finish line.

Corrina (5:16) - The Taj Mahal covers makes it the 3rd song in the first set to be played for the first time in 2016. Trey's vocals are confident and Page's soloing is soulfully delivered. Straight forward version played with aplomb.

Stash (11:35) - This is where the night really began to take off. Crowd sing along following "asleep in the trees" was full throated and filled the arena. Playing is extremely tight, especially Fish, who hits all his spots with deft precision. The jam kicks off with Trey strumming chunky rhythms before sliding into soloing. Fish's playing is markedly dynamic from the onset. Full of ideas that careen off the arena walls, the full band improv coalesces into a resounding rolling thunder onslaught. The intensity builds to a series of cathartic peaks accentuated by CK's solar flares. The crest is soaring as they cruise into "maybe so, maybe not" guitar line to bring the song to a close.

Cavern (5:14) - song choice signaled an end to the set. Fishman sets the pace towards the faster end of the spectrum and the playing is punchy from all four. Great energy throughout with nary a lyric flub and smiles from ear to ear on every face on stage and in the arena.

Set 2

Wolfman's (13:27) - Longest Wolfman's since the epic 12/28/12 version 4 years earlier. The crowd roars at the opening piano notes and the song takes off. Great pacing and energy at the start of the jam with the band locked in from the start. The improv centers around Page's clavinet expositions spiking the tumult of Mike's low end thud. Fish and Trey spiral around the periphery sending the jam into extraterrestrial funk. Trey hits on a theme at the 11-minute mark and builds on it for the remainder of the jam sending the crowd into a frenzy with rapid-fire lyrical soloing that brings this mighty jam to a climactic finish.

Golden Age (20:47) - Picking up where they left off with the Vegas version, they string back-to-back 20+ minute performances together with stylistic similarities threaded throughout. This time around they break off from the major key bliss early and head quickly into the syncopated dark funk explorations on the wings of Fish's inventive hi-hat work. Everyone's playing radiates out from the drums creating a expanding radius of rhythm that opens up new pockets and "hey holes" in the tapestry. Page uncorks some spacey synth lines that envelop the rhythm from overhead. Fish is absolutely on fire here, directing the trajectory of the jam with unrelenting intensity. Plinko-type jamming ensues with Trey transitioning to minimal melodic lines that snake in and around the center, nodding to Jiboo-like jam phrasing. The emotion begins to shine through the playing around the 17-minute mark leading to a set of radiant peaks that light up the room before dissolving into half-time ambience that allows the audience to catch its collective breath.

Simple (8:20) - Great transition by Trey, perfectly syncing up the Simple riff to the half-time beat at the tail end of Golden Age. Fishman does a decent job of picking up on the cue but still leaves some negative space in between the shifting rhythms. The major-key jamming is standard Simple-jam fare from the jump with blissful runs from Trey and Page entwining above the steady pulse. Trey hits a dissonant chord around the 6-minute mark that stunts Page's piano solo and shifts the flow of the jam. Page waits a minute or two before picking back up on the opportunity to lead the jam until Trey abruptly ripcords into the opening riff of Chalkdust.

Chalkdust Torture (6:59) - The transition into Chalkdust was one of the only choppy moments of the evening as Trey decided not to give the Simple jam the space to naturally flow and travel to any significant distance. The pacing of this Chalkdust starts on the slow-side but once the jam ensues it reaches a rocking tempo that stirs up the crowd, especially once the peaks start to spike. You can really hear the difference in Trey's tone in the last minute of the jam before returning to the vocals. The sharpness and thickness that cuts through in his tone is remarkable.

Martian Monster (9:49) - Longest version since 7/31/15, this is easily one of the most dynamic versions of the 20 that have been played to date. Group improv is at the fore throughout the entirety with great stop-start action punctuating the proceedings. Page employs the "First Astronaut" segment of the vocal sample in tandem with the "Your Trip is Short" line to create a playful 1-2 punch. Trey starts to bring in the familiar chord progression of Tweezer Reprise with a smile on his face from ear-to-ear, turning back to look at the band for buy-in. He then starts singing "Your Trip is Short" in the exact cadence of "Won't you Step into the Freezer" much to Fish's joy as he howls and signs along in the background. The guitar solo builds and then perfectly drops back into the funky punch of Martian Monster groove before closing with a big rock finish. The band is all smiles at this point, clearly getting a kick out of what just transpired.

Wingsuit (9:49) - The band takes a full minute before deciding on dropping into the downtempo ethereal feel of this tune. After the back-to-back thrust of Chalkdust and Martian Monster they are consciously bring the energy level back down before slowly building up to the Floyd-light guitar-led swell of the jam section. Another moment in the show where you can hear the clear changes to Trey's tone via his new amp and overdrive pedal. This is fairly standard version albeit with some extra juice stemming from its placement late in the 2nd set.

Possum (10:41) - While the playing here is solid, there was definitely a feeling throughout the tune that the night had already reached its highest peak. That being said, this classic was welcomed whole heartedly by the crowd who bounced and sang along as CK punctuated the festivities with some playful light work. Page took first go-round on the solos, banging out some boogie woogie phrasing on the baby grand. Trey grabs the baton and rips some countrified licks that build up to series of small peaks before dropping back into the ending vocal section.

Good Times Bad Times (6:29) - Standard encore song choice and playing felt like a solid pick to close out a show that started and ended with a similar sentiment. No matter what is going on in the world around us, music will always be there as the great equalizer allowing us to come together and celebrate being alive through loud music, dancing and collective catharthis.

Picking right up where they left off in Vegas, this was a great way to start a 4-show New Year's run in the Big Apple. Show had intention behind it that wasn't lost on the crowd and everyone remained locked-in throughout. While the 1st set didn't get intense until the Stash, the 2nd set was fiery from the jump with exceptional full band improv. Trey shined brightly all night with focused playing that was at once joyful, dirty and expressive.

Here's to three more exciting nights of Phish to finish off a year that has had so many highs and lows. Good times and bad times in the world around us fall to the wayside when Phish takes the stage and I couldn't be anymore thrilled to be bringing in the new year with this band and all of you in attendance.


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