Phish rolled into the holy holiday-time room that is Madison Square Garden Friday night for a weekend-long New Years Eve throwdown. Questions about if the band would be rusty or not after the four-month break were put to rest pretty quickly with Trey’s punchy notes coming through Fish’s heavy drum rolls, crashes, and splashes during the opening number. The band sounded like there was literally no gap between Dick’s and NYC.
While the Stealin’ Time opener wasn’t what many phans were looking for, the quality within is more important. After tinkering around with his pedals, Trey started Moma Dance. This version, dirtier and grittier than usual started the year-end dancing immediately. Feeling the full power of the season, the room, and the fact that the phamily was back together for the first time since the beginning of September helped the band moved as a well-oiled machine. At one point, they dropped into a plinko jam in the middle of Moma! The song finished out with an absolutely soulful solo from Big Red himself.
Either #phish has secretly been touring since Dick’s or they have been using the world’s most powerful rust remover.
— Guy Forget (@GuyForgetOPT) December 29, 2012
Mike, wearing the odd jacket he wore last year (only with more hair gel this year), and Trey in his [probably] $5,000 black NYC shirt moved right into a 3.0 first-set favorite: Funky Bitch. Trey’s guitar solo again proved how in-control he was from the get-go.
Trey isn’t the only one that should be praised though. Fishman was absolutely crushing his kit last night as if he’s playing 6 hours every day. Mike and Page are always good–OBVIOUSLY.
The mid-set Tube dropped felt far heavier and longer that it actually was. The jam quickly found deep waters. Trey and Page kept us moving upon the dark waves coming from Mike and Fish. At this point in the concert it was apparent that really good things were happening with the band.
Stash that found its way out of Tube sinks into thoughtful, interesting, and directed noodling right away. Trey’s noodling is not aimless, it is not piercing, it’s perfect. Fishman filled in the gaps perfectly with cowbells, splashes and other tools on his kit. The interplay is really quite stellar in this jam. Soon, Trey starts working at building full-band tension–typical for Stash. It’s a great build up and a very worthy effort at a release. In fact, there are two releases. The first is far better than the second. the second comes after a quick jog up Trey’s fretboard and right before the closing refrain. A good 3.0 Stash.
The Kill Devil Falls is decent but failed to quench the thirst everyone in the room had for the band to build off of what they started in Tube and Stash. Free, while always welcome in the first set, was as standard as every other 3.0 version.
Wolfman’s Brother brings the heat right back. While many 3.0 versions are compact superfunk jams, this one is a bit looser and gives Mike room to step on his envelope filter in a fierce way, destroying the internal organs of all in the room. Trey smoothly comes out of the meatball section and leads the jam into another direction with Mike popping along with his pick in hand.
Trey leads the jam into a full-blown Little Drummer Boy jam–last seen in 2.0. After the Christmas song comes a fantastic blues jams.
So set one was solid, a great starting place for a New Year’s run. Trey was playing very well with the rest of the band. It’s almost as if Trey finally has stopped caring about what people think, stopped trying so hard. He is playing with confidence and a mind at ease.
When Tweezer dropped, the crowd jumped. The jam meshed perfectly from the get-go, Trey leading his bandmates. The jam comes to a number of guitar-driven peaks with plenty of blissful interludes in between, Page dominating those. Fishman’s drums stay unique throughout. This 20-minute monster showed us that Phish was ready to jam this weekend. This Tweezer has multiple parts, very much like the fantastic renditions of Sand and Light from the Dick’s run a few months ago. Phish seems to be putting together truly creative improvisation once again. At about the 18-minute mark of this song, Trey starts trilling and building excitement to a full-band peak before heading into what I thought was Bowie at first.
Maze is ON POINT. Page and Trey crush this version. But the real excitement takes place in the following Twist. Trey jams on the line of Little Drummer Boy again in the intro to the song after talking about Fishman and his drums.
Mike is the one leading this jam out of the gates with pristine crispiness popping from his monitors. Soon, Trey joins Mike’s five strings with thoughtful note placement. The jam built to a section of screaming and trilling guitar. Trey’s fingers were working overtime this set. This Twist is really quite jaw dropping. If anything, download this show for the impressive 9-minute Twist. After the peak, Trey drops some heavy-ass Little Drummer Boy licks again before yelling “WOOO!” to end the song.
Theme that came out of Twist was really well-played and started with PAGE for once! After Trey started the song almost every time this era, it was refreshing to see it started correctly once again! This took us to a mid-set Fluffhead before dropping a massive Bowie on us.
The Bowie jam was laced with pattern-based jams. However, I think Trey kinda blows his load a bit too early and kinda stumbles into the final section of the song making some kinda cringe. That’s covered up by the fact that he brings the pattern that they discovered in the jam into the ‘breaks’ in the end of David Bowie for some cool stop/start jamming between the trilling sections! The ‘pattern’ sounds A LOT like the breakdowns of the 7/31/09 Tweezer actually.
The encore featured a very impressive Good Times, Bad Times. Phish rock at its phinest. It also begged the question (once they band walked off stage), “so when is Tweezer Reprise coming?” Will it open tonight’s show? Will it close the entire run? WILL THEY OPEN SET III ON 12/31 WITH IT?? Will it be part of the NYE gag?
Check back here tomorrow morning for Paddy S.’s review of tonight! I’m hoping for a massive LIGHT!