Days after Christmas, phans got what they really wanted–a scorching Phish show to kick off the celebration to the end of the best year of 3.0. Normally the first Phish show of a holiday run is the warm up show–a safe-played and solid concert. Not only was last night solid from start to finish, but it exceeded many people’s expectations and it showed that none of them–not even Trey–lost a single step during their extended break.
The entire night Trey was moving his guitar around while soloing, something that reminded me of 1999 Trey. He was manipulating his ax (especially in MFMF) as if there wasn’t a 3.5 month void of Phish playing. The first set contained the first Free opener ever, the first Glide in 89 shows, an oddly-placed Contact (for a sign on rail), and screaming versions of Stash, KDF, and Bathtub Gin.
The mid-set Stash highlighted their intense and dark tension that they’ve been able to create this year. While the peak lacked a lot of luster of yesterdecade, it was yet another improvement on Trey release after heavy tension. A good version indeed.
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Set 1: Free, Glide > Possum, Cities, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Stash, Contact >Sample in a Jar, Kill Devil Falls > Bathtub Gin
Set 2: Birds of a Feather, Carini -> Tweezer > My Friend, My Friend -> Rock and Roll -> NICU, Bouncing Around the Room, Harry Hood > Bug
Encore: Tube > Rocky Top > Tweezer Reprise
 Streets of Cairo tease.
 No “Myfe” ending.
 Birds of a Feather jam.
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Undoubtably, the first set will be remembered for the spacey Cities and the rockin’ Gin. Cities’ jam featured some fun jamming, but they couldn’t hold onto the lightening quite as long as most would have liked. The very interesting setlist was a highlight in itself too; while I called Possum to open MSG, it ended up coming after a 2nd-song Glide instead. After nailing Glide, Trey launched into a ripping Possum. Do they play Possum a lot? Yeah. Do I care? No. Possum is a very exciting song nowadays.
The set-closing Gin (set ended at 9:30 on the dot) was full of fire–foreshadowing what was to come in set two. Page was turned up and wrapped his notes perfectly around Trey’s furious darting leads.
The second set is a perfect embodiment of what a 2011 second set looks like: long, winding, interesting song-placement, hot jams, and dips into the unknown. Birds of a Feather kicked things off much like Blossom’s version earlier this summer. The peak hit us hard with Trey absolutely wailing. When Carini followed, I was less-than-excited. I feel like Carini has been played way too much in this era and the jam often becomes abrasive and uninteresting–however, last night was different. The jam slowly sank into blissful psychedelia. The jam, short as it may be, was gorgeous, but what was even more gorgeous was the way Trey moved it into Tweezer.
Trey delicately teased the riff before busting into it–not just pulling an awkward ripcord like he’s done many other times in 3.0. When the band snapped into the freezer, MSG erupted with cheers, flailing arms and glowsticks. The jam, reminiscent of 12/30/10’s by starting off with bulbous bass lines from Gordo, began with delicate and thoughtful noodling by Trey over fantastic layers of sound by the rest. Fish’s drumbeat featured a slightly-rolling snare hit. The jam slowly built to an elevated full-band jam before fizzling into an exciting MFMF.
MFMF featured awesome guitar work by Trey. He used effects and bent strings before rocking out and ending the song before the “myfe” ending. The song instead went into Rock and Roll. Usually when Rock and Roll is in the middle of a set, at least in late 2010-2011, it’s a closed-ended rocker. This version is quite open-ended. I’m surprised that LivePhish didn’t label it as “Rock and Roll > New York jam”. The jam is absolutely raging out of the gates, even more so than NYE 2010. Trey teased Birds of a Feather during the beginning of the jam. Phish net says it’s a Birds of a Feather jam, but I’m not sure why it’s labeled as that for any reason other than there was a tease. Nevertheless, the jam goes into a closed-hi-hat fast funk explosion before Trey slows things down with a punctuated style of strumming his guitar–this set him up perfectly for the second awesome segue of the set, into NICU.
Reminiscent of the segue from Stash -> NICU from Hampton ’97, this interesting landing pad worked very well. During the segue Mike’s bell made an appereance and Fish quickly belts “WHAT?!”. The NICU worked, yes, but the Bouncing that followed was placed a bit poorly in my opinion. No big deal, because the Hood that followed was gorgeous. Hood has been getting better and better every time Phish has played it this year. The jam starts with Trey finding a simple pattern that works very well and he builds from that. It’s one of the best builds in the song we’ve seen this era. The peak could have reached a bit higher, but the journey to the end is what it’s all about, and last night Trey nailed that part. The jam puts you in a state of pure euphoria–well done, Phish. One more thing to point out: it sounds like Trey attempted a Free tease as Hood fizzled away.
After the Bug set-closer, Tube interestingly kicks off the encore before the Rocky Top > Tweeprise.
This show is a fantastic opening to the NYE run. This show is a must-get because of the Free opener, the Glide > Possum, Cities, Gin, Carini -> Tweezer, Rock and Roll -> NICU, and Hood–so, pretty much the whole show. I can’t wait to see what tonight brings!