Still high as a kite after playing one of their era-defining shows the night before, Phish took stage for the final night of the Madison Square Garden stand. Everything seemed to come together for the first Phish show ever played on New Year’s Day; Trey’s rust was completely gone, he was listening to his other bandmates, and the song selection was stellar. The show boasts two of the most solid sets they have played in this era. They played so well, it was as if there was something we should be suspicious about.
Set 1: My Soul, Tube > Runaway Jim > Foam, Guelah Papyrus > The Divided Sky, Round Room > Walk Away > Gotta Jibboo > Reba, Walls of the Cave
Set 2: Crosseyed and Painless > Twist > Simple, Sneakin’ Sally through the Alley > Makisupa Policeman > David Bowie
Encore: Fee, Frankenstein
I predicted that the 1.1 show would prove to be way too over-hyped; I was wrong. Trey made a powerful statement from the beginning during My Soul. Trey, the one to usually cut jams short, blew past Page attempting to return to the song’s lyrical refrain. Page started belting “My my m…”–Trey kept wailing. That was the point I turned to my cousin and said, “okay, this show is going to be good, Trey came out to play tonight.”
Tube got things moving; the five-minute version packed in a lot of infectious grooving before heading into Jim > Foam, a combo that reminds fans of Phish 15 years ago–possibly the most classic duo of songs they have for a first set.
Since Phish’s return in 2009, I have seen Round Room signs at at least half of the shows I have gone to. Like Manteca, Phish finally gave the audience what they had been asking for for so long. I was so happy to hear Round Room come out. In 2003, I liked it, but I never expected to actually hope to hear it again. It was played for the first time since 7.13.2003 (140 shows). The end didn’t contain the extended spaciness that some other versions contained, instead Trey started up a raging take on Walk Away.
Walk Away, ever since Hartford, has become an injection of balls-to-the-wall rock each time it’s played. The Gotta Jibboo that followed contrasted the heavy rock with some heavy funk before Trey started soloing again into the end of the jam. It was becoming even more apparent that Trey was on tonight. When the expected Reba started up, all eyes were on Trey.
1.1.11’s Reba is the best Reba of 3.0. First, the best one was Alpine’s. Then, the best was Augusta’s with the type II jam and Manteca teases. This Reba finally hit’s IT. I never thought Trey would be able to bring back the roller coaster of peaks that the song is supposed to end with–he did, and cleanly. Nothing could have stopped Phish last night…NOTHING!
Phish decided on another 2.0 song to close things out, Walls of the Cave. This was the third time the song surfaced since 2004, and it appears that the third time is indeed a charm. Deer Creek’s last summer was good, Manchester’s last fall was rockin’, MSG’s was blazin’. Trey ended the set like he started it, screaming to everyone that he refuses to be reffered to as the weakest link of this era of Phish–like he was just nearly a week earlier with my review of the first night at DCU. Trey blew the roof off with this bad boy. As they left the stage, I had to pick my jaw up from off the ground. Set by set, Phish had been using their time at MSG constructing a new highlight reel for us and the next generation of fans to enjoy for years to come.
Some songs were easier than others to predict last night. It was obvious that they were trying not to repeat any songs in the five-show run (other than Number Line and Bowie). By the fifth night there were a lot of expected songs like Runaway Jim and Reba. I was an idiot for not thinking about Divided Sky when I made the daily OPT poll. Regardless, OPT fans did pretty well with their picks again:
The second set was started with one of my favorite songs to do the job: Crosseyed. The jam floated away a bit while the quiet refrain of “stillll waitinggg” floated over the jam, much like in Chuck Town’s and Coral Sky’s. I thought the jam would flutter into nothing, but, woah, what’s that??? Is that a bird? Is that a plane? No, it’s TREY!!!!!!!!!! Trey comes back for his 7th blistering guitar solo of the night—AND THIS IS ONLY THE START TO THE SECOND SET. Trey’s segment is short before the song slips into Twist, but gosh is it hottt. And, you guys know me, if Trey is trying to solo and he gets ahead of himself (like DCU’s Weekapaug) and ends up sounding like garbage, I say that in my reviews.
The Twist that Crosseyed naturally went into boasts some serious textured jamming–then it stops. NOT. Yeah, you get it by now, Trey comes in for another rocking finish. His playing in the end of Twist meshes perfectly with the rest of the band. Trey contributed to this jam very thoughtfully. Out of nowhere, in a good way, Simple starts up. The rowdy cheers coming from the crowd during the ‘skyscrapers’ segment (because of NYC) was deafening. The jam starts out as nothing out of the ordinary, but eventually Trey starts playing something that sounds composed. I asked my cousin, “is this a jam or another song?”. Soon, Fish picks up on the jam’s new direction and they finish the song with a very original, almost composed sounding jam.
Phish opted out of doing a slower song after that string of three seriously jam-filled songs, instead, another jam song! Sneaking Sally featured a longer-than-normal vocal jam segment before Trey came wailing back in. Rather than the funk or rock that a Sneakin’ jam would normally yield, the improv eventually sprouted an out of the ordinary, organic groove. Although it’s just short of ten minutes, there is a lot packed inside. Trey ends up looping some slightly against-the-grain notes before we knew where he was going with it.
Makisupa emerged; following suit of the fall tour Makisupas, Trey used another pot reference in the keyword segment–just like the old days: “I went home late last night after doing the New Year’s stunt, I laid back on my couch and rolled myself a blunt”. I don’t think Page knew that Trey was going to sing that, because, immediately after Trey did, Page burst out laughing. Listen for it on the soundboard recording. Trey asks Fish to do a “kick drum solo” which was awfully humorous.
The set closed with a decent, but better than DCU, version of David Bowie. Then, continuing with the tradition Trey revived in Deer Creek earlier this year, the megaphone comes out for a Fee encore that leads into Frankenstein with Page on the keytar taking center stage. Fish comes from behind his kit holding a single cymbal and a drum stick so they can all wrap up their wonderful three nights at Madison Square Garden together, side-by-side.
After reviewing this show, I might rate this show as the best of 3.0. It’s hard to make such a bold statement, but I’m going to definitely say that it’s high up there for quality.