Let's dig into the vault again to pick out a show that is worthy of review. During late December 1997, Phish reclaimed their New Year's Eve domination of Madison Square Garden, as if MSG was angry that Phish had skipped it in 1996 to celebrate in Boston. Phish came in to the historic New York venue after a solo night at the USAir Arena in Maryland and absolutely murdered MSG over the course of the following three nights.
We are here to focus on one of those three nights; On Monday, December 29th, 1997, Phish took the stage to a rabid crowd--many of whom purposely skipped the Maryland show to make sure could see all three nights in New York. The concert started off with an odd NICU opener and Golgi Apparatus followed soon thereafter. After that they decided to get MSG rolling. They bust out Crossroads--a blazing version. Although Phish had played this earlier in the month, it's a cover that can always yield a powerful crowd response for obvious reasons. They cooled it down a bit with a very solid version of Cars, Trucks, Buses and Train Song. Could we call the combo "Cars, Trucks, Trains, Buses?"
Theme from the Bottom, a song that doesn't often stray from it's formula, is played particularly passionately. My favorite part of the song was in the closed hi-hat introduction where Trey drops a solid digital delay loop on us--something I don't think he has done in any other version (I could be wrong about this). Listen->
Next is a glorious Fluffhead. This Fluffhead clocks in at over 16 minutes with the last four minutes being the soaring ending--Trey just keeps going up and up. A truly beautiful take on the song--it eventually fizzles into Dirt.
The opening licks to Run Like an Antelope start up. This one turns out to be just as long as the Fluffhead two songs earlier. This version is absolutely on fire, it rages. It builds up to an extremely intense Antelope peak. When the song pops into it's "reggae" segment, the Antelope takes a turn for the worst (aka, SUPER FUNKY). Ah, yes, Phish busts out their patented late '97 funk, complete with funky breakdowns and complete stops (you didn't think Phish could go an entire set in late '97 without it, did you?). This Antelope has it all, fans--If anything, download the show just to hear this bad boy.
Phish had now officially warmed up the crowd for a second set that will go down in Phishtory.
Phish came out after MSG's houselights go down, eerie noises and even a brief N2O loop is now floating through the air. What are they going to play--Down With Disease as it turned out, after an unusual introduction. The jam is standard out of the gates, energetic and driven by Trey--at about halfway through, Trey starts getting distorted, slowing down the speed at which Phish are playing. When the drums finally come down to Trey's slow level, Trey laces the arena with a huge digital delay loop--at this point Phish sets off into space. Mike starts going underwater with his effects which cue Trey up for his slow funky wah pedal. Briefly teasing the idea of taking the music into a heavy rock direction, things slow back down when Page comes out with the organ. Fish's slow, half open hi-hat beat morphs into the opening of David Bowie.
This David Bowie, like the Run Like and Antelope and Down With Disease before it, is a monster--clocking in at around 24 minutes. Things are pretty noodley and direction-less until about the 10:30 mark, though. As things start picking up, the jam gets very driven. They bring it up very nicely in the next eight or so minutes, keeping everyone on their toes wondering when the end was coming. After a misstep (at least I think it sounds like he is about to do it and then bails) by Trey attempting to go into the end segment of his classic trilling, he gets it the next time around.
Without a doubt, the best part of the whole show comes at the end of David Bowie; at the end of what everyone thinks to be their last punctuated "lull" during the trilling segment, Phish snaps into Possum in lieu of the final trilling segment before the end of the song. The crowd erupts, noticeably audible on the recordings. Some waiting 10 seconds after it happened to cheer because they just got out of shock. Listen ->
The Possum that ensues keeps the energy at the very highest, too. The song is pumped full of Otis Redding's Can't Turn You Loose teases, well actually a full Can't Turn You Loose jam. Page starts it with Trey and then Fishman catching on soon thereafter. The point where Phish abandons the Can't Turn You Loose jam and goes back into Possum's normal jam is also a favorite part of this show for me. Page comes raging out of it, leading the band into a keyboard driven Possum jam. All I can think of when they come out of Can't Turn You Loose is "oh, it's on." Listen-> The song eventually ends in normal fashion with Trey starting up a short Can't Turn You Loose reprise before officially ending their three-headed monster of a second set opener.
So, so far Phish has played great versions of Crossroads, Fluffhead, Theme from the Bottom, Cars Trucks Buses, Possum, David Bowie and Down With Disease. They have also played, arguably, the best version of Run Like an Antelope ever--next comes, arguably, the best Tube ever played.
The nearly 12 minute Tube that follows this raging Possum is unmatched--"I don't know braaah, 12/7/97 is pretty amazing too!"--yes, the Dayton Tube from earlier in the month is also hot, but in a different way. The funky and solid Tube before the reprise is great. The Tube reprise is also good, but I feel starts losing itself while Phish prepare to go into Slave to the Traffic Light. The MSG '97 Tube is a solid 11.5 minutes long and is thiiiiick all the way through. The song starts off in a far slower manner than usual, as if they know exactly where they want to go with the jam. Out of the gates, Page just flies off the handle while Trey is playing around with his delays before finally hitting the one he will use the whole jam through at a nonfluctuating volume level (usually the volume drops off as the loop goes on). Trey starts his funky strumming as per late 1997, he stays in the background behind page for the greater portion of this jam. When all is said and done, we get 2 funky Trey breakdowns, a funky Mike break down and a funky Page breakdown, whom Trey tries to mimic with a little bit of rock before Fishman helps him back down into the Tube funk before the end of the song. One of my favorite parts is how Page comes in after the first funky Trey breakdown--listen for him after you download the show (assuming you, for some reason, don't have this show already). The whole thing is just ridiculous.
After four epic versions of four epic songs, one would think they would want to take a breather--you know, play When the Circus Comes to Town or Water in the Sky. Nope, You Enjoy Myself instead. While there is not much that stands out about this version (other than Pages short Can't Turn You Loose tease during the trampoline segment), the fact they played You Enjoy Myself after what we had just been through shows how much business they meant now that they are back in New York for the turn of the year.
Yep, that's the second set--Down With Disease->David Bowie>Possum, Tube, You Enjoy Myself--a double dipped cream dream thrill ride of your life. Good Times Bad Times ends the show as the encore, which provides one particular screaming peak from Trey, ending this night on an extremely high note.
I'm not going to say much about it in this post, but 12/30 is probably even more ridiculous than this show--I posted about the Black Eyed Katy last month (that link also has the download). I just figured that show was so popular, there would be no point in writing about it. If you don't know about that show, please stop clogging my website with your traffic.