To me, the five-show New Year’s Eve run played out in two distinctive halves. It started off with two decent shows, not up to the standards of an NYE run, being held back by a particularly rusty Trey Anastasio. It ended with creativity, great guitar work and some of the best versions of songs since their return. While only a couple things will be memorable from the Centrum, the entire three night stand at Madison Square Garden will be cemented in my mind forever.
One of my problems with Phish’s current touring schedule is that there are such long breaks between tours. Trey seems to always start out rusty and uncreative. It takes him a few shows to get his chops back and, in turn, his vision of how to use his talent (jamming). As I expected, he was a bit discombobulated in the two Centrum shows. A lot of people will say they took a “laid back” approach, etc–nonsense. If these were shows in the middle of a fall tour, I’d probably agree. They are at the Centrum for a NYE run; no one wanted a “laid back” approach. While it’s hard to argue with the impressive song selection during the two nights, it’s easy to argue Trey did little with them.
- Cool it Down
- Mike’s Song > Mound
- She Caught the Katy
- The Birdwatcher
- Back on the Train
- Harry Hood
- Frankie Says > Albuquerque
This version of Roggae is one of my favorite versions ever. I certainly think it’s the case that Roggae has been better in 3.0 than ever before. In this version, Mike took a hold of the jam and darts up and down his fretboard in a frenzied fashion with the rest of the band trying to keep up.
The Mike’s Song is quite a strong version, boasting some seriously hard core chops before going into the end. Right as the song ended, Fishman started up the beat to Mound. Mound was probably the least expected song to come next.
During 2009 I almost wanted to avoid Mike’s Song. The song had lost a lot of power and inspiration from what it once was. It always went into Hydrogen and then Weekapaug. ‘Paugs were particularly one dimensional, too. Now, any time you hear Mike’s Song ring through the rafters, you know you’re in for an adventure. The typical Mike’s Groove (Mike’s Song > Hydrogen > Weekapaug) has not been played since the first leg of summer tour (6/22/10). In fact, Hydrogen has not been played at all since Telluride. My point isn’t that Hydrogen is a drag, but rather that Mike’s Groove is always a wild ride lately. The Mound sandwiched inbetween Mike’s and ‘Paug is one of the most interesting combos to date–something that hasn’t been done ever before.
She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride (God, it sucks typing that) was a highlight for obvious reasons (hasn’t been played in 12 years).
The Birdwatcher was a song I have been itching for Phish to perform since I first heard it on their album Party Time. It has been played in a full band style with TAB, so I was curious how Phish would perform it (if they ever did). I see it as really cool that they have a new a capella song to add to their catalog of music. I was getting awfully sick of hearing Grind after 2009 to be honest. The performance of Birdwatcher also shows that the band is spending time practicing together.
Back on the Train served as the anchor for the song-driven second set of the Centrum’s final night. Fish and Mike provided Trey a solid rhythmic backbone for jamming. Trey, again, threw in a Streets of Cairo tease–something he has been doing all year.
Frankie Says was huge for me. I have such vivid memories of listening to both 4/2’s and Story of the Ghost’s version over and over. When I hear Frankie Says, it puts me in a time warp to the past. I don’t know what it is about that song–but I get chills listening to it. I was ecstatic that they bust it out for us. While many people, including me, were hoping for a big song next, I was perfectly happy with Albuquerque. I had seriously forgotten about this song until they bust it out in Cincy last year. When they started it up, I honestly had to wait for the lyrics to get a hold on the song’s name (pathetic, I know). So, since Cincy, I have been waiting to hear this again. The moods both Frankie Says and Albuquerque provide compliment each other so well. I thought the combination of songs was exquisite.
Now for the biggest Centrum highlight, Harry Hood. Honestly, every time this song starts now, I roll my eyes as Fish rolls his toms. While the intros are getting cooler (because of Mike), the jam hasn’t been anything more than uninspired. Hood is a song that should burst at the seams with joy. Trey should be peaking so hard that when the lyrics “You can feel good, I feel good…” come in, you should be jumping in the air and dripping with sweat. Now, it’s just emotionless noodling into the end. The Centrum’s version is a different case. This Hood featured one of the most original jams of the band’s career. Fish and Mike pick up on Trey’s hesitance to start the jam up and take matters into their own hands. The jam turns into a calypso-ish dance party with Mike taking all the leads and Trey sitting in the background. Mike sounds amazing in this, just amazing. Listen to this with headphones on and the bass up, your mind will be blown.
Despite these highlights, I was still disappointed with the concerts. Trey’s cringeworthy playing in Seven Below before forcing a What’s the Use? was rediculous. I was worried that MSG would be more of the same. I was worried that the only good jams we would get would be ones where Trey is sitting in the background. I was wrong.