Sunday 07/30/2023 by phishnet


[Recap courtesy of @dmg924, David Goldstein -Ed.]

The pre-show vibe amongst the Lawson’s Hopcelot consuming crowd at Madison Square Garden on July 29th, 2023 could be basically been summed up as such – “Well….how the hell are they going to top THAT?”

The ‘THAT’ in question being the prior night’s show. Based upon the frequently used expletives in my text threads and myriad invocations of the carpenter for whom Easter is celebrated; July 28, 2023 was one of THOSE shows. It was a top to bottom masterpiece in which the improvisation was so effortless and the peaks so memorable that it leaves the more conspiratorial minded fan to wonder exactly why Phish doesn’t play like this all the time? Do they actually have something against the good people of Wilmington, North Carolina? Phish’s ability to turn IT on and off will forever be a mystery worthy of stoned dorm room debate. But that’s why you go to more than one, and there’s no right way to Phish; some fans would prefer to see a 12 to 13 song first set rife with six-minute sing-alongs versus a 22 minute maelstrom of sound only five minutes into the show. I won’t judge. Besides which, if Phish played like 7/28 every night, both they and the audience would simply collapse; Big Red’s mighty fingers worn down to calloused nubs of flesh. So what would they possibly do for an encore on this, only the second night of a seven night Madison Square Garden run?

© PHISH 2023 (Rene Huemer)
© PHISH 2023 (Rene Huemer)

How about kicking off the evening with 10 minutes of amiable choogle? No longer simply content to warn us about approaching the night with caution as they did the evening prior, Phish is now standing in the rain, doing the pleasant clickety-clack thing of “Back on the Train” before dissolving into a two-hole “Down w/ Disease” like its 1994 or some shit. But those mid-90’s versions weren’t 19-minute journeys with blissful jamming the key of C Major before proceeding with robot communication funk, and one begins to think that we’re continuing the trend of last night in that we’ve got a second set where a first should be. But such thoughts are put to rest with the pleasantly bland trio of “The Dogs,” “Bug,” and “Sugar Shack”; bringing the energy down to questionable levels before hitting on the Lonely Trip ditty “Evolve.” And can I say how much this guy loves “Evolve”? It’s “Nothing” meets “Water in the Sky” meets a Christian day camp sing along that’s still somehow my favorite first set addition to the Phish 4.0 canon. The band then proceeded to remind us that “Horn” exists, before concluding with the formidable 1-2 of a well-played “Foam” and Ziggy Stardust jam “Moonage Daydream,” drawing to a close a first set that while not quite scaling the heights of last night, still contained plenty to revisit.

During setbreak I did something that I had never done in any of the dozens of Phish shows I have seen at MSG; I bought a hot dog! It was good! Large and beefy with a good snap and classic brown mustard! Would recommend.

Careful listeners will note that a recent trend in 2023 is for Phish to begin a second set with a five-to-six-minute trifle immediately followed by a twenty plus minute money shot. Recall that the Berkeley Tweezer was preceded by “My Soul,” the Syracuse version preceded by “Suzy Greenberg,” last night’s “Ruby Waves" and "Plasma” madness preceded by "More,” and so forth. So it was understandably exciting when set 2 began with “The Wedge,” played entirely in the proper key this time! And now “Fuego,” correctly started like the studio version with Page’s piano for what feels like the first time in forever. This song has had a sneaky high batting average in 4.0, but most would still point to the 25-minute version from 7/8/14 in Philadelphia as representing the apex. Yeah, no longer. This was the first 2023 song to exceed thirty minutes since the Berkeley Tweezer, and was an often quite demented calypso-flavored DANCE PARTY that felt like a loosely awesome soundcheck, and concluded with four minutes or so of a dense krautrock/kosmiche groove far more reminiscent of 1970’s CAN than 2023 Phish. All of which was augmented by Chris Kuroda’s gigantic Lite Brite board which cycled through looking like Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, to the inner workings of a 1980’s paperweight like you’d buy at The Sharper Image, to repetitive starbursts of white light during the most Kraftwerk-ian bits of the jam. The message from the stage remains loud and clear; 40 years into the game, and YOU STILL CAN’T GET THIS SHIT ANYWHERE ELSE. And having the best drummer in the history of Western Civilization doesn’t hurt either. Rest assured this “Fuego” will get the 4K treatment on Phish’s YouTube channel, giving insomniacs such as myself something to look forward to at 1:45 in the morning.

“Oblivion” awaits! Great setlist call and obviously a new Trey favorite as it’s reached the four-timers club on this tour after only making its debut with his Trio this past June. Given that the song would not appear to have a composed ending, we’re always guaranteed a shale-centric jam of some sort, and this evening’s was excellent, if falling a little short of the recent Syracuse version. I would argue that “Wingsuit” is underplayed in 4.0, and the ensuing “2001” was shaping up to be a longer and more unique version than any prior we had heard in 2023, but the band opted to steer it into Fishman goofball territory and the first “Cracklin Rosie” since 2012. I’m not complaining about a humorous Fishman sing-along exactly, but that “2001” had legs! Not unlike the inflatable legs of a store-bought woman!

© 2023 Scott Marks
© 2023 Scott Marks

The final three songs in the show sounded exactly like they look on paper, though for the first time I caught myself wondering if Trey slowly raising his guitar at the conclusion of “First Tube” is a tribute to Peter Gabriel slowly raising his blue neon cross at the conclusion of “Supper’s Ready.” While not quite the relentless improv-fest of the prior evening, one is hard-pressed to complain about a show with a high quality first set “DWD,” sky scraping Bowie cover, and what’s probably the best version of “Fuego” to date. And we’ve still got five of these left! And I’m taking my daughter on Tuesday! Truly I am the World’s Greatest Dad.

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, comment by DesertDirt
DesertDirt Kudos, David!

Great review — fun to read.

Thank you!
, comment by marshmeli
marshmeli Agree we still need to hear the rest of that 2001. It was going places and in its infancy when they went to HYHU. Never disappointed with some phish humor but I’d like that song to continue…
, comment by Henrietta11
Henrietta11 Nicely written dmg and thank you as I look forward to taking part this afternoon. Great Jon shot by the way.
, comment by drbeechwood
drbeechwood Maybe the 2001 will finish later in the run.
, comment by mgolia6
mgolia6 Man, you crushed that review. That was the show I experienced for sure and you so eloquently captured it beyond, I feel, anything I could have thought up. CHURCH! Left thoroughly impressed but scratching my head like I was missing something (a bit of my mind from that fuego) and couldn’t quite put my finger on what.

While your ability to beautifully capture the music was top notch, what impressed me most was your ability to describe the behemoth light rig ala the “gigantic Lite Brite board which cycled through looking like Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, to the inner workings of a 1980’s paperweight like you’d buy at The Sharper Image, to repetitive starbursts of white light during the most Kraftwerk-ian bits of the jam.” F’in A! Pure nails.

Kuroda earned his CK5 badge keeping the entire crowd energized, mesmerized and hypnotized even when we were trying to determine the philosophy behind some of the set one song choices. He might have single-handed it been responsible for that raucous crowd cresecendo that transpired during 2001!!

I am torn wondering whether I would rather Saturday nights show knowing I probably saw an all time (for now) version of a song, or Friday’s sonic brilliance of elevating multiple tracks with some seamless cohesion. A quandary for sure.

Thanks @dmg924 for putting into words what was floating around in mind.
, comment by Tiddlywinks
Tiddlywinks Great writing to accompany a great review. These guys really have taken their game to another level and we’re all luckier for it.
, comment by GenericPhisher
GenericPhisher I could not read it all.

Paragraph breaks would be excellent.
, comment by disenlighten
disenlighten I was getting an MRI yesterday, had them put on the Phish channel — my secret to making it through them; it ain’t stupendous in that tube —and I only heard “Dogs” through “Foam”. I love “Foam” but I was thinking to myself, “this would be disappointing if this were a show and not just a random bunch of songs.”
Context is everything! Ha ha. I will be checking out what I missed. Great write-up.
, comment by andrewrose
andrewrose Huge props for this review, especially “amiable choogle” and “energy to questionable levels” and the way you broke down Evolve. Tell it like it is!

Have to also comment that I took my son to the show on Saturday and was writing a review in my head while driving all day with a very similar working title: “World’s Greatest Dad (Rock)”.

I haven’t listened back to anything yet so will reserve right to reverse any of these opinions, but:

- Disease jam didn’t do a lot for me on the spot, though it was welcome. Certainly not to the level of Wave of Hope in the two slot on Friday
- First set was pretty rough selection wise in the middle, though I’m a Bug fan and thought it was a good performance. (Speaking of good Bugs, ive been revisiting shows from 7/03 and my it had some hot ones then!)
- i was pumped to hear MY FIRST FOAM since starting to see the band in 94. Statistically almost impossible, almost couldn’t believe it.
- Moonage absolutely slayed. Hadn’t seen it before and like the Starman I saw on 8/6/17 had me pretty emotional
- definitely would take this Wedge over a More, but come on guys don’t be so predictable. Open straight with a 20 min Jim why don’t y’a
- Fuego obviously a beast.. and a nod to the brutal heat in NYC this week. There were segments part way through where it felt like the jam was falling apart, messy, and just meh, BUT whatever happened in the last segment may be the coolest sounding jam they’ve done since 21. Need to revisit, obviously.
- I’m a fan of Oblivion, and happy to hear Treys songwriting taking a darker more nuanced turn, nice little jam.
- By this point I was expecting a classic big oldie based on Friday’s Simple, with nary one in sight save the first set Disease. I don’t dislike Wingsuit, but was a let down for me in this slot. The lyrics “Nothing lasts, nothing stays / Caught in this procession of unchanging days / What's new is old, what's old is gone” certainly seemed to acknowledge this in a way that pushed me to the edge a little bit. My son knows tons of songs, mostly classics, and I kept waiting for one to drop!
- 2001 was excellent though based on the longer intro they did with it earlier in the tour kind of thought they would do more of it, but just dropped in. I agree it had legs and was hoping they’d finish it later in the show (coming out of Santos would have been perfect..). That said, the deconstructed jam and ensuring -> to HYHU was really cool, and seeing Cracklin Rosie was a huge huge highlight for me, despite it being such a train wreck. Too bad I wasn’t on the rail, I could have helped Fish with the lyrics, belting them out as I was jumping up and down from sec 119.
- the audible gasp from the room at the Farmhouse was downright funny. No hate on Farmhouse, but this is an MSG residency, guys. No theme is fine, but that was a terrible call. First Tube was terrific…and did not make up for it.
- of course I had to hit the road and miss the Sunday show, with Izabella redeeming last nights encore, and all those 1.0 classics compromising the entire 1st set, tongue in damn cheek. Enough to make me wanna freak out and throw stuff. Jerks ;)
, comment by MikeKsGroove413
MikeKsGroove413 Speak my mind on most of this. 2001 was Phunky and we want more…but we don’t complain on Rosie bc like Trey says “This is what it’s all about, right there.” Which is to say, ‘we are phish, so let’s not take ourselves too damn seriously’. And I appreciate that.
Being a new dad - with 11mo. ol girl at home- I find myself loving Evolve,..and of course THAT Fuego…
But don’t let anything fool you: Moonage at end of set 1 was height of nrg for the night from the band and the crowd.
Seemed to be a pattern this weekend, rage first set and slow into set 2…sometimes second set didn’t really build or took a awhile this weekend…but phish is also about diversity…so I will take it. Thanks for great 3 night run..back to the baby ;)
, comment by Nicup79
Nicup79 @marshmeli said:
Agree we still need to hear the rest of that 2001. It was going places and in its infancy when they went to HYHU. Never disappointed with some phish humor but I’d like that song to continue…
I, too, am waiting for the rest of 2001...fingers crossed we get it one of the next 4 shows!
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