Saturday 12/29/2012 by bertoletdown


Glad tidings from to all of you.

Much has come to pass since this summer, including recent human tragedies that have underscored how reliant we are on each other as human beings, and how blessed this community is by the generosity and passion of its members. In no official capacity whatsoever, I would like to thank you for being here and taking part, whatever that looks like for you.

Now let’s pick up where we left off three months ago and change, with a short and sweet look at night one.

Tonight’s first half, bluntly, is as predictable and rote as any since Bonnaroo.

No, the set is not without highlights. There are flashing passages of brilliance like the plinko interplay during Fishman’s verse in “Moma Dance,” and Mike’s scarf. The concluding “Wolfman’s” is playful and powerful from start to finish, and the “Little Drummer Boy” improv manages to dance on the thin line between loose and reverent. Page commands individual attention for much of the first ninety minutes, most notably during his solos in “Funky Bitch” and “Tube.”

But the rest is safe business.

For those following along at home, setbreak affords some saucy guitar porn, as Trey curates a tour of his rig. We’ll provide a link as soon as we’re able, but trust me when I say this is obligatory viewing for guitar geeks and laypersons alike. [ed. note: here's that link -]

To open set two, Phish unpacks the “Tweezer” that many expected to see tomorrow, just as winter storm Freyr bears down on Manhattan. This version wends its way patiently to a satisfying peak before bleeding into “Maze.” Page delivers yet another scorching organ solo, emphatically icing his MVP status for the night. More “Little Drummer Boy” quotes during the final throes of “Maze” grease a segue into a typically strong “Twist” that builds deliberately and pays off well.

Theme From The Bottom” is plagued by its typical FTR (failure to rehearse) issues, and arguably by faulty placement, but the “Fluffhead” that bubbles up next is something else. The composed section holds together well and the whole band sticks the landing in the outro solo. It’s the first time that the audience’s energy is palpable via webcast.

Unusual as it is to hear “Maze” and “David Bowie” in the same set, I’m a sucker for the unexpected, and so I am grateful for this set-closing “Bowie” (the last few minutes of which arguably boast the most spontaneous and interesting jamming of the night). The double encore of “Bouncing” and “Good Times Bad Times” leaves “Tweeprise” on the table for the rest of the weekend, and there are certainly worse cards to stash up one’s sleeve.

Much like the band we love, we’re just getting revved up here. Happy New Year... we hope you check back a lot!

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, comment by makisupaman
makisupaman Had very similar impressions from my view via the webcast. Looking forward to the next three nights on our way to year 30. Thanks for the review, as always.
, comment by fluffhead108
fluffhead108 Does anyone else think this first set is being criminally undersold? I thought Wolfmans was the highlight of the night. And that scarf...
, comment by WaxBrain
WaxBrain Arguably the best Fluffhead I've ever heard. Thing was note for note on FIRE. Great energy in the room....hope I can hit up more of these or at least watch, cos the boys are having a grand ol' time this weekend!
, comment by TwiceBitten
TwiceBitten Classic Second Set. The entire set could have come straight of of '97 ('95 minus Twist). Very nice flow for 3.0. The first kicks into gear after Tube and doesn't stop, I agree that this review underrates it.
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown The first set was straight down the middle, and a completely risk-free affair until Wolfman's. Which is to be expected on night one of a four night run.

Tonight will be a better show from start to finish. Mark my words.
, comment by lumpblockclod
lumpblockclod Enjoy the review, as usual, Chris, but I think you're significantly underselling the Tweezer, which makes a strong case for best if 3.0. Throw that in with probably the best versions of Wolfmans and Bowie since 2003 and I was very pleased with last night.
, comment by ubertube
ubertube Last time Maze and Bowie in the same set? Friday, 05/06/1994
Tower Theater, Houston, TX
, comment by Uakari
Uakari Review is FTR
, comment by Live_Eels
Live_Eels Can we call it a "Tube jam tease"? I thought that they really f'ed up the intro to Free but on 2nd listen it seems that they just extended it out a bit.
The shows seems very underrated in this review. The Tweezer really went places and could be an easy highlight of this run. And I was NOT expecting that Bowie...
, comment by MiguelSanchez
, comment by whatstheuse324
whatstheuse324 Mike Gordon's scarf must have been made from one of James browns old bed sheets, because his funky bass owned the whole first set. You could sense the funk trying to sneak back into jams in the second set, but he didn't have the scarf on. Wolf mans brother was an instant classic, Tweezer ruled, top notch! Also, the green lights that shine on the band members on stage are now dubbed Gordon's "scarf lights" since they highlight it so well.
, comment by Fees_Nipple
Fees_Nipple Rig video is definitaley worth the watch. Trey is so cute!
, comment by BigDudeInTheDoorway
BigDudeInTheDoorway Great to see they came ready and practiced. The interplay between Page and Trey especially, picked up right where it left off. Last night leaves us fully aware of the possible epic jams to come. Can't wait for tonight.
All the obvious and aforementioned greats from last night aside. Did anyone else really dig that Free or is that just my partialness for that song?
, comment by andrewrose
andrewrose Tweezer was great, and nice to see it get the 20 minute treatment in the lead off spot for the second set. Not sure I'd give it best of 3.0 status (12/29/09, 12/30/10, 9/3/11 come to mind) but top 5 of the era is no stretch by any means. All in all though a very encouraging opener to the run.
, comment by boyfacedog
boyfacedog Does anyone remember Trey slicing a Little Drummer Boy back in the 90's? might have been a Starlake show. Anyway that was powerful set ender.
PS- Tweezer was huge
, comment by rusty
rusty Tonight’s first half, bluntly, is as predictable and rote as any since Bonnaroo.

All I can say is, there was nothing "rote" about the crowd's reaction at the end of this supposedly "predictable" 1st set---It was deafening! How can a set that opens with Stealing Time, includes Army of One, and has a Wolfman's for the ages with a Little Drummer Boy segue, be considered rote and predictable? I was so looking forward to reading reviews of last night's show when I got back from MSG and then I was completely dumbfounded by the opinions rendered in this review. SMH
, comment by tweety
tweety This review misses the feel, beauty and energy of this show very badly imo. I thought perhaps I overrated it because I was there, but I've listened to most of it a few times again today and I'm really surprised at how much this misses the mark in terms of what I enjoy about this band. Been seeing them live since '85 and, on balance, I thought this was an excellent, well above-average show, with many inspired moments.
FACTSAREUSELESS Rote and predictable? The only thing rote and predictable to me is the constant penchant for old Heads to look down their proverbial noses at anything that goes on these days with the band. Why is everything always measured against '97? (I'm not a newbie by the way....I'm the same age as the boys and been a fan for years). IMO, a lot of the jamming in '97 is underdeveloped in sophistication compared to what they're doing today. Phish today is a like aged whiskey........I smell it coming through the speakers...they are consummate pros and masters in their field. I think, honestly, that a lot of phans are simply nostalgic and as the years go by y'all forget the duds and misfires and only remember the magic. There's a lot of magic coming from these guys now, and quite consistently. Besides, I personally like the way their sound has evolved and matured over the years. Even on "average" nights, they are never hard on the ears, and I appreciate that. THE SHOW ITSELF IS HUGE. Agree with most of the above....Tweezer was masterful. My only criticism of the boys these days is that they're not on the road long enough. They need to get greasy and worn out and then the jams will take off in more interesting directions. I think any predictability they show is a result of not enough time on the road together.
FACTSAREUSELESS I might also add, speaking of denigrating Bonnaroo references......i'm hopin for a nasty Shafty breakout on NYE.....Anyone else?
, comment by ajcmixer
ajcmixer Yeah, I, too, cannot agree with the "predictable and rote as any since Bonnaroo." comment either. I spoke to a friend during set break and commented how nice it is to be a convert since Jones Beach '09 and that it is refreshing to simply appreciate great music being played great without any preconceived notions or historical references and I definitely feel that should be applied to the 1st set, there were some huge great moments in it and if this 1st set represents "predictable and rote" then I look forward to hearing this kind of "predictability" for the rest of my Phish lifetime. From the lips of to the ears that need to hear it...:-wink/smile. And I don't feel that you had to be "in the building" to appreciate its greatness. I had as excellent of a time during the 1st set, even better than the 2nd set in some respect, simply because I thought that for an opening set of a four show run it was especially inspired. Still, all good. Your individual mileage may vary.
, comment by User_11821_
User_11821_ @bertoletdown, tough crowd.

You totally undersold the Wolfmans and didn't even mention Army of One. The Stash was mellow, which is kind of rare. That's it though, good job. I watched the webcast, second set was fire. You should have expanded on the Tweezer, haha. Seriously...

Also, reading reviews is a lot of fun, don't be afraid to write a little more.
, comment by andrewrose
andrewrose The Wolfman's is interesting and a welcome first set excursion, but far from 'one for the ages'.
, comment by Scott
Scott Set I wasn't that thrilling save the Army of One & Wolfman's. A Page-led extension from Moma or Tube, both of which sounded possible in the moment, were not to be. The exit from the bass solo space in Free was a minor disaster.

However, the Tweezer was superb, borrowing some melodies from 9/3/11 in a more exploratory and open-knit frame, and the rest of set II was mostly high quality high energy and fun. Theme is a great mid 2nd set song (see: BGCA) and Trey tried to mix up his solo with a dirtier sound but his flub in the composed section was somewhat foul. I really like that part of the song, stretching back to when I was disappointed when it went missing on Billy Breathes. Twist, Fluffhead, Bowie and GTBT were all worthy performances as well.

A good show but hopefully still 3rd or 4th best this weekend. I'll dl the show just to explore the Tweezer some more.
, comment by jagxjr84
jagxjr84 That Hailey's to limb by limb just rocked my world!
, comment by andrewrose
andrewrose For a limited time I'm just going to post here. Waves! Finally bought the cast in time for 12/29 II. No regrets. Caspian coulda been Piper for a second there! Kill it Trey. You got time, and I'm so happy you do.
, comment by Dressed_In_Gray
Dressed_In_Gray @Scott said:
Set I wasn't that thrilling save the Army of One & Wolfman's.
Totally agree. Army Of One is best when Trey lays back. Halloween 09 was my favorite version, and this one was good, too.
, comment by nichobert
nichobert wow that Tweezer sure didn't merit much comment for being fucking amazing.

maybe it wasn't huge bold slashes of unpredictability, but it was also bursting at the seams with gorgeous melodic flourishes which turned into tangents and pushed the jam this way and that. It isn't the most rocking, but i feel like it's going to bear so much fruit on repeated listens. I love when their ESP is fully locked in, but they choose to be subtle. That's why 2012 rules: This band's taste in their own music is impeccable now.

the more I hear 2012 Phish the more I think they're better at actual improvisation than they ever were before.
FACTSAREUSELESS "That's why 2012 rules: This band's taste in their own music is impeccable now.

the more I hear 2012 Phish the more I think they're better at actual improvisation than they ever were before."

nichobert, you capture my sentiments I said...aged whiskey....
Nice call.
, comment by tweety
tweety @bertoletdown said:

Tonight will be a better show from start to finish. Mark my words.
Words were marked. Was it better? Setlist, to me, says "no." But I wasn't there and have yet to listen. Just curious about the prediction, which imo reinforced the reviewer's misguided dismissal of night one.
FACTSAREUSELESS No, it wasn't better fact, I think night 1 will go down as one of the upper crust shows of the year...not top shelf, but upper third......I think our erstwhile reviewer got innocently caught up in some very high excitement/anticipation of what was coming and let himself down.....I think the truth lies somewhere between the review and the pom-poms.
Last night was middle-age funk. :)
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown I was wrong. Last night was not better than Friday.
, comment by tweety
tweety @bertoletdown said:
I was wrong. Last night was not better than Friday.
Thank you for answering that. I appreciate that hope springs eternal for every show to be better than the one before, and I agreed with a lot of your specific technical analysis of the show. I just thought it was too dismissive of a better-than-average show that developed very nicely, had a really decent setlist (for my tastes) and had unique improvisational elements that were well-executed. As I get older and my opportunities to see shows are fewer, I've come to savor these nights a lot more.
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown Having re-listened to the Tweezer, it clearly merited more comment from me at the time. It is obviously an excellent version which for whatever reason took me another spin to discern.

I will refrain from making any foolish predictions about tonight, except to call a Timber. :)

, comment by Dividedsky333
Dividedsky333 This was my first show since seeing the band at SPAC in July. All around great show, and it really exceeded my expectations for an opening night of a 4-night run. Highlight of the night was witnessing 18,000 phans chanting "Pa rum pa pum pum" during the Drummer Boy teases. LOL!! Definitely one of those quirks of a show that is completely lost on webcast or relistens.
, comment by tweezedout
tweezedout Stash was gorgeous
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