Saturday 12/29/2018 by phishnet

12/28/18 RECAP: 2018'S FINAL HURRAH

[ welcomes and thanks guest writer, Andrew Sinclair/@aisincl, for the recap of 12/28/18 - ed]

As the rain subsided and the nearby Queens power generator explosion (CK5 dress rehearsal?) was subdued, we all made our way to 33rd and 7th to kickstart the final run of 2018. Compared to the last few freezing years around MSG during the holidays, it was a welcome warmth and buzz that permeated the neighborhood. Tonight’s show felt like a montage for the entire year, combining stellar, patient tunes with hyper-speed jamming, delivered through thoughtful song selections and dedication to vocals. The Phish from Vermont are playing with vigor and continue to flex their muscles. Night 1. Thanks to Jon R and his family for the primo seating spot at center court, in between the two levels. Lots of room to get down on Rage-side, now we just need some audio.

photo used with permission - Andrew Sinclair
photo used with permission - Andrew Sinclair

We kicked things off with a fresh, new Kasvot Vaxt choice, "We Are Come To Outlive Our Brains," and this selection set everyone into a positive and joyous mood. This innovative glue in our magnet reminded us that the Halloween material is here to stay, and will continue to enhance the shows.

As we warmed up in the thick Garden air, another Halloween debut (albeit four years prior), "Martian Monster" set us up for blastoff. The crowd dug into a solid, Page-led groove that the boys had fun with, mixing up their pacing. As the track turned dark and mysterious, "Axilla" took over and brought out the intensifying energy that delivered Yuletide glimpses of a nice opening night rager. With the opening setlist warming up everyone, it was time to settle into a welcome standby. "Free" added some always-welcome funk beats midway through, leading us on the path towards an extended bridge section and reinforcing this Phish classic. The late-song build had a slower grind to it, featuring some excellent early work by Trey, with Mike keeping it steady. "Free" has found its place in the opening set all year long.

"The Wedge" gave us a chance to sit back and ponder the year in review, and what 2018 was all about. I will pause here to reflect on an excellent summer and fall tour, with so many solid and strong shows throughout. I enjoyed streaming Hampton and the Gorge, Dicks and Alpharetta as well as the Vegas run. May as well throw in my mini-2018 playlist: 7/25/18 "Set Your Soul Free,", 8/8/18 "Everything's Right,", 9/2/18 "46 Days" -> "Tweezer,", 10/16/18 "Everything's Right,", 10/21/18 "Simple,", 10/27/18 "No Men in No Man's Land," and 11/2/18 "Soul Planet.". Nothing like a consistent, high-energy year to carry the momentum from 2017. To more adventures ahead.

photo used with permission - Andrew Sinclair
photo used with permission - Andrew Sinclair

Making its 3rd appearance this year, "Meat" turned dirty and dark, and Fish led the rocker into a grinding and devious path. It’s been a while for this early tune, and the crowd expressed its appreciation for the change of pace. And that led us to the blissful, highlight of the opening set. "Ghost" was outstanding, played with patience and a delightful major chord that allowed Page to overlay his chimes and glassy keystrokes. The whole sequence was a call to relaxed and heavenly feelings, putting the entire arena into a warm and communal dance. CK5 introduced the finest aquatic hues into the room, and everyone was in a water tank of joy. The final tally listed this "Ghost" at 11 minutes, but it felt like a 20-minute ballad.

"Sparkle" and "If I Could" showed off Trey’s excellent vocals, one of the stronger elements of 2018. And then we closed down the set with an intense, first ever pairing of "Maze," "Walls of the Cave." Both had their anthems played with precision, and the echoes of "Meat" and "Axilla" came through the back half of "Maze." "Walls" reminded us of how important the first set closer remains. Some were calling for "Bowie" or "Sand," but the two-segment "Walls" delivered and sent everyone to set break with a reminder of how their favorite band is still bringing the thunder.

photo used with permission - Andrew Sinclair
photo used with permission - Andrew Sinclair

A half hour later, we were led into a standout of this year, "Set Your Soul Free." The 7/25/18 version still has my vote for "Jam of The Year," and tonight's version felt like an extension of the "Ghost" earlier on. Once again, patient listening and space allowed all four to shine, especially Mike. He has had some great MSG runs and he really stood out during the early 2nd Set. Brings back memories of his 2017 YEMSG MVP run.

"Swept Away" > "Steep," still one of the peak moments of the Baker’s Dozen, were well placed and the only 2018 debuts in this show. We all enjoyed listening and singing along. Post-"Steep," the crowd voiced its appreciation in a roar that brings out the best acoustics in the building. Would the boys respond with some evil Phish? Nope, we were brought to a festive sing-along in the second Kasvot Vaxt selection, "The Final Hurrah." It should be interesting to see which of the 10 Halloween debuts finds their place in various show slots.

We were feeling energetic, especially with so many quick and pleasant songs this evening. So with that, we finally got some intensity in a killer "Fuego." The lights were lowered to just above the band’s heads, and they settled into a stomping version that elevated the energy to volcanic levels. Viking Warriors, time to rage.

photo used with permission - Andrew Sinclair
photo used with permission - Andrew Sinclair

"Shade" was a welcome chance to collect one's breath, and lock in for the homestretch. We were delivered what felt like a surprise placement for "Bathtub Gin," with a jam that represented another show highlight. We all love to take a bath, and this journey allowed Page to shine while Fish doubled the pace before coming back to the main chorus. The reprise of this legendary original brought the Garden crowd to a frenzy, with a "Possum" that closed the book on an excellent set 2. After a month's worth of Yule Logs and storewide holiday songs, Trey snuck in one more seasonal jingle with a well-executed "Little Drummer Boy" tease at the end of "Possum."

After a brief breather, we encored with two cornerstone Phish pieces, "Bouncing Around the Room" and "Slave to the Traffic Light." While "Bouncing" was delivered in a typical upbeat rhythm, "Slave" built with comfort and delight to send everyone home happy. Phish is in a solid place, with the standbys and favorites juxtaposed with fresh new songs from their newest albums or side projects. The boys set the table tonight, and perhaps we will hear some bustouts and covers in the shows to come, especially of the Baker's Dozen variety. Excited to see what else they have in store this weekend, as the 2018 YEMSG run started off on solid footing.

In summation, two excellent and kinda-equal sets, with standouts in "Ghost," "Maze," "Walls," "Set Your Soul Free," "Fuego," and "Bathtub Gin."

Hasta mañana.

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, comment by PhishyFlocker
PhishyFlocker Man, the WACTOOB opener meant a lot. Instantly addressing the question/concern of whether KV would exist only in the Halloween set or not, and in such a fun effortless way. Where else are you gonna hear thousands of people singing about glue in magnets?

So pleasantly surprised that I wasn't the only one who wanted KV and could hear others singing along.

I mostly agree with this assessment but I think the gin was a bit flat.
, comment by Cerias
Cerias Enjoyable show, but a bit uneven. Enjoyed the SYSF, Fuego, and Slave, but "precision" is not the word I would use to describe Maze/Walls; Trey was struggling. Looking forward to tonight!
, comment by HarborSeal
HarborSeal My quickie review: The opening sequence of WACTOOB, Martian Monster, Axilla, Free was very strong. Each of these was played accurately and fiercely. The rest of the first set was less crisp. Meat, Ghost was a strong sequence, and while Ghost found some nice, blissful territory, it never quite found it footing. If I Could was precious, lovely, and well played. Maze, WotC were fairly (not very) well played to close the set.

SYSF is not a song I love. The jam was enjoyable but never got anywhere Significant, though I was a bit distracted by some especially loud chompers next to me during the most out-there parts. Swept Away, Steep was very nice. I love the extended 3.0 version of Steep, and while this was no 8/1/17, it's a good version, far better than any from 1.0. Man, what a gorgeous tune.

The Final Hurrah was excellent--punchy, funky jam that gelled and worked. Fuego had a nice full-band build, crisp and well executed, and a nice segue into Shade. I have to admit, I love Shade, and this version was precious. The repeated "Only like the shade when you're blocking the light" vocals at the end, sung by (I think) Trey, Mike, and Page were lovely.

Bathtub Gin was excellent, probably the show highlight for me. The jam was up-tempo, with Trey's fast, spry chording driving it in the early part. It did not have the same over-the-top raging climax that many 3.0 versions are wont to have, but it built nicely and the jam just worked. Possum was well played to close.

Encore was fine. Bouncing was awful (sorry; I hate hearing that done to that song) but Slave was good enough.

On the whole, the show was a bit sloppy, and not especially exploratory, but there were a few good jams, including a standout late-show Type I Gin, and the KV songs were a treat. Hopefully it'll be the worst of the run (although I, alas, will not be attending any of the others).
, comment by Wilsonwasframed
Wilsonwasframed The review of the show looked about right to me. However, did you say that highlights of the year included “Soul Planet” and “Set Your Soul Free”? I find those 2 to be absolutely painful.
, comment by aisincl
aisincl Jump onto Phish Just Jams and try those tracks again. The Jams were on their game.
, comment by TwiceBitten
TwiceBitten @Wilsonwasframed said:
The review of the show looked about right to me. However, did you say that highlights of the year included “Soul Planet” and “Set Your Soul Free”? I find those 2 to be absolutely painful.
Sucks to be you then :)
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