Thursday 12/29/2011 by pzerbo

YEMSG 2011-12-28 RECAP

Alongside the storied Phish traditions of Halloween and the summer festivals, the New Year’s Eve run of shows are the most eagerly anticipated by fans in any year. When this run takes place at Madison Square Garden – the world’s most famous arena, in the epicenter of the Phish fan base – the level of pre-show hype is practically off-the-charts. Performing their 20th show at MSG tonight, it is like entering their own post-season, after a very successful year. Three and a half months off their last performance – 9/14/11, the benefit for Vermont flood victims – and on the heels of a strong end to the last tour including several strong performances in Chicago and Denver, would Phish come exploding out of the gates? Or would the “marathon not a sprint” mentality give us the proverbial warm-up show? The turnstiles crank on 7th avenue, while couch tour nation settles in at home. Let’s do this.

8:07 brings the lights down. “Free” starts things off – oddly, the first ever opener! Not quite the nod to #OWS that “Crowd Control” might have been, but a welcome sentiment to start open the festivities. Then the first “Glide” in 89 shows since it’s last appearance on 12/4/09, also at MSG, tight and well-played with an extended “silent moment” before the final verse. Swiftly into the first “Possum” in, well, one show! The fifteenth “Possum” of 2011... and perhaps not the last! :-) Energetic to the core, “Possum” does what it is supposed to do, crush MSG with the power rocking blues. A short discussion then produced “Cities.” A soft, mellow, and directionless “Cities” that looked destined for a quick exit instead picked up considerably with a great and distinctly non-”Cities”-like jam at the end, deep, dark, Mike-led, and coming to a quiet, understated (and frankly premature) ending, this was the first of what one hopes will be many such exploratory excursions over the course of the run.

Curtis Lowe” follows, settling in to its semi-regular rotation since being reintroduced to the repertoire on 5/31/09 at Fenway Park. “Stash” is next and we are offered a cliff-notes version; always welcome and perfectly enjoyable, but not a version we’ll be discussing a month or a year from now. The first “Contact” of 2011 (last played 8/13/10, 59 shows, and the first ever at MSG) follows, to the crowd’s delight. Then quickly into a stock “Sample” followed by “Kill Devil Falls” a song that began 2011 with such promise at Bethel Woods. Compact in the extreme, this version is ditched – though without much crowd objection – in favor of “Bathtub Gin.” Patient to begin, this one builds to a pleasing peak, though leaves us pregnant with potential. Does it compare favorably to other great “Gins?” Perhaps not, but who cares, an energetic punctuation to a solid if uneventful set of music, with the “Cities” and “Gin” being the highlights. End of set @ 9:30, set time ~83 minutes. Solid. Well-played, sir. But in all fairness, let’s call that the warm-up set. Good times ahead. We’ll be back in fifteen minutes.

OK, we’re back: lights @ 10:04, “Birds of a Feather” @ 10:05. An especially short version without much of a real jam, “Birds” gave way to “Carini” that featured an unusually repeated “lumpy head” lyric. An opening to deep space presented itself, and the intent was there, but the band instead bailed in favor of a sweet segue into “Tweezer.” (10:21) The jam starts with Trey playing almost a “Golden Age”/”Manteca” vibe and grooved hard before a “Streets of Cairo” tease, before bailing via a short spacey transition to “My Friend My Friend.”

A brief but sweet segue into “Rock and Roll” pivots the momentum of the set with a nice “Birds of a Feather” jam mixed in. Then a full segue into “NICU” followed by a fun “Bouncin’.” “Hood” was not especially good in the beginning, but the jam more than made up for any technical indiscretions. Awesome warm reds and purples from Chris Kuroda and, pleasantly almost no glow sticks. While last year’s phenomenal Hood from Worcester was built around a slow, steady and beautiful plinko jam, this jam had more searing notes from Trey coming at a much more rapid pace and deep, rich bass notes that were tighly woven together and worked perfectly. As did last year’s 28th show in Worcester, “Bug” followed to close out the set. A relatively long segue from the Hood hinted at something other than the Bug which seemed to shift the momentum that had built through the Hood.

A quick three song encore of “Tube”, “Rocky Top”, and “Tweezer Reprise” clocked in at nine minutes and closed out the first of four from the new Garden. Although rare to see as an encore, “Tube” wasn’t particularly well executed. An upbeat, as always, “Rocky Top” had the Garden dancing and the exclamation point that is always “Tweezer Reprise” did not disappoint.

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, comment by finch460
finch460 I thought that the Cities post-jam was excellent. It was deep, dark, and exceptional. I was quite miffed that they stopped, then followed with Curtis Loew. I love Loew, don't get me wrong.. But why cut short such a beautiful jam segment just to completely change the mood? I certainly expected them to seque into something dark to match the jam. Oh well.. It was still a good show with some really nice moments. Really looking forward to the rest of the run!
, comment by tmwsiy
tmwsiy agree..good point @finch460: I love me Curtis Loew too but was oddly placed. And indeed, the Cities jam was extraordinary, a definite highlight of the show for me. Listening today, the Tweezer jam really stands out too. Didn't really get too excited about it last night on the webcast, but there's a lot going on in it.
, comment by Henry_Gale
Henry_Gale They definitely opted for the marathon not a sprint approach last night with Cities, Carini> Tweezer & Rock & Roll> NICU as the clear highlights. Trey seemed just a touch off here and there, especially with some of his vocal timing in the 1st set. Really wish that Cities jam went on for another 10 minutes or so!
, comment by mcgrupp81
mcgrupp81 I was kinda pumped about the Manteca tease that came out because I believe it was a nod to the 12/28/90 Tweezer> Manteca> Tweezer. That 12/28/90 was a nice show and one of my first tapes. I believe the Almanac said that the 12/28 show was the one that turned Elektra onto Phish. Check it out.
, comment by GottaJiballer
GottaJiballer Agree with the review...I was really diggin the Cities jam, then they cut it short right as it was gettin dark and spacey, frustrating. The Tweezer was good, reminded me of the Superball IX Tweezer
, comment by ThePhisher
ThePhisher There's an obvious Free tease at the end of Hood.
, comment by ThePhisher
ThePhisher Also: Last first set contact was 1993-07-30
, comment by Dressed_In_Gray
Dressed_In_Gray Set II derailed after Rock and Roll.

Nice warm-up, but not much more.
, comment by finch460
finch460 @Dressed_In_Gray said:
Set II derailed after Rock and Roll. Nice warm-up, but not much more.
I'm sorry but I disagree. NICU and Bug were both very nice and it was nice to hear those songs. Bouncin' was standard, but still good. From an 'OMG LETS DO NOTHING BUT JAM' perspective, I could see your point. But I thought the end of the 2nd set was well done and really gave the show a nice note to wind down with. I do agree that the show as a whole was more of a warm-up and a nice one at that. :)
, comment by GamehengeLizard
GamehengeLizard I complete with @finch460, the Cities was a great treat. I thought the end of Carini wasn't or hasn't been pointed out, it was a nice balance between the four of them before the segue in Tweezer, which had a good staccato beat that had my noggin' noddin'. Harry seemed butchered to me, but I need to hear it again. The intro I thought had GREAT potential to actually move into a jam before actually getting to the "Harry" lyrics, but it seemed to end just as quickly as it started. I thought that was going to be a great improv to really extend into another great Harry (always a fav), but I felt disappointed with how it flowed.

As always, another great opener for what is sure to be a solid four run night. Finally up to Bouncing, so I'll see in 4:02 if my thoughts on Harry change.

, comment by gratefulkeith
gratefulkeith Awesome first day of my first couch tour. As I was watching tweezer I noticed that Trey slipped and missed the final peek of tweezer. That's when they went into the streets of Cairo jame. It was funny cause Trey and mike looked at eachother horrified. Then
Mike and Paige settled it down to create a very beautiful improv. It was great to watch them save it on the verge of a disaster I'm lovin it
, comment by WaxBrain
WaxBrain "Cities" jam was pretty sick. Mike was workin' it well....
But I loved the segue from "Rock & Roll > NICU" best. It was rad, and ever so nuanced from Trey.
He's definitely mastered his new guitar, it's only gonna get better this weekend!

I was 5th row right in front of Fish. I've fortunately been that close before; but being there, on the Garden floor where Russell, Bird, Messier, Jordan, Gretsky have all gone to work, won was very epic. Very moving.
Thanks Phish Lottery, didnt get any other shows, but you sure made up for it with Sect. C Row 5!!
....and now onto tonite!
, comment by jdcaldwell81
jdcaldwell81 Call me a late bloomer but a friend recently introduced me to the awesome music that is Phish, and even though my first concert was on the Couch Tour...night one of YEMSG was phenomenal and left me inexplicably pumped about what tonights show will bring!
, comment by tmwsiy
tmwsiy @jdcaldwell81 said:
Call me a late bloomer but a friend recently introduced me to the awesome music that is Phish, and even though my first concert was on the Couch Tour...night one of YEMSG was phenomenal and left me inexplicably pumped about what tonights show will bring!
Never too late to join the party..always room for one more, especially on the couch!

Dig a little deeper too and check out for versions of songs that you enjoyed hearing and grab them from the spreadsheet or etree.

20-Minute Jam Chart is also pretty fun to check out.

And finally, if you really catch the Phish bug, and just need to know what the setlist is at the most current show, you can always check: />
Have fun! Enjoy the next few shows.

..and welcome
, comment by phunkytime
phunkytime @waxbrain
I agree something about seein the guys play in the garden where I have rooted for the Knicks and rangers so many times was really something. I was at 12/30 last year but coming back the second year in a row it really felt like phish called this place home. I felt like I was rooting on the guys like I would the rangers during playoffs. No complaints only a gigantic smile! Really looking forward to tonight's show
, comment by ForgeTheCoin
ForgeTheCoin This Cities jam encapsulates a lot of my impressions of 3.0... SO much potential still there, but a hesitance to tread into unknown territory, more risky realms... I'm sure most of us start getting excited when the band begins to flirt with really deep explorations as they have in the past, and often feel a little let down when they back away from the abyss. Mike beautifully changed the tenor of this Cities jam, and set the stage for an incredibly interesting journey into beautiful, deep, and dark space... and in my opinion, Trey balked at the opportunity to let it happen. The way the jam sort of peters out hints at this hesitance... That said, there are many good things to be said as well - I have certainly enjoyed the 3.0 shows I have seen, and you can't complain about concise, tight playing... but I can wish for those moments when the band throws caution to the wind, follows their collective intuition, and takes us over the threshold into new frontiers...
, comment by jeffreybeaumont
jeffreybeaumont I hear this, Nutty Professor. 12/27 was the first Phish show I've attended since the Hartford shows in Summer 2000--11.5 years!--and it was both a wonderful experience and a bit of a letdown. I had an intense Phish heyday from 94-00 but I lost interest after Farmhouse and have largely avoided listening to them over the past 10 years (including up until 12/27), which gave me an interesting perspective on this show. It was great to hear so many songs I used to love dearly dearly (do they not play new songs these days?) and I had a blast, but I also felt a little sad that few moments of this show felt inspired. Particularly on songs like "Possum" and "Ballad of Curtis Loew" really just felt like slow plodding roots-blues exercises with "jams" needlessly tacked on. And then when, just as their "Cities" jam seemed like it was about to maybe go somewhere, it just... stopped? It was weird, and kinda sad.

But hey, there aren't many bands who can keep doing the same thing for 25 and make it feel new every day. I was impressed by the energy, the furious undying love of the fans, and a few moments in the "Rock and Roll" jam that made smile for the past.

Thanks, guys.
, comment by ForgeTheCoin
ForgeTheCoin Hey Jeff -

I hear you... I think it's difficult having seen some classic Phish (my first was the Cliff Ball in '96) and having listened to many hundreds of hours of classics to juxtapose all of that with the playing now. On the one hand, they are still a DAMNED good band, and a band I'd like to see more than just about any other, but on the other hand, as a discriminating audiophile and longtime listener, there are moments that are hard to hear. This being said, I caught a couple shows on last year's fall run - Augusta and Manchester, and there were some absolutely beautiful moments - Augusta's Reba and Hood are versions that I just keep listening to and keep giving me goosebumps. Manchester was a full throttle show that showed that above all, they were absolutely playing their hearts out. I imagine there were many Deadheads hitting shows in the 80's and 90's who still loved the band and yet yearned for the explorations of the late 70's... things change. I think Phish is focused right now on being tight, and they ARE very tight for the most part. Unfortunately I believe this comes at the expense of hearing some of the really far-out excursions they used to take (the Runaway Jam in Worcester being the wonderful, extreme end of that spectrum). So, it's different now, and that's just the way it is. I think its good to be honest about how the music affects us now, and am disheartened by those who jump all over any reviews that have a tinge of the negative. I know there is still the potential for some of those amazing moments that completely transport us - they are just going to be fewer and father between. So we can only hope that we are fortunate enough to be present when they do happen... Definitely still very grateful that the band is playing, years after I thought I had seen my last show. May tonight and tomorrow night bring down the house - look forward to hearing the gems sprinkled throughout...

Cheers and Happy New Years,

The Professor
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