Thursday, January 5, 2012

Live Review: Phish 12/29/11 MSG, NYC

Live 12/29/11

After being much more involved in the Phish scene in the past Phish 3.0 has been regulated to a once a year happening for RtBE and for the last 2 years those shows have come during the New Years Run held at MSG.  Last years show was an old school setlist, throwing down with friends I hadn't seen in a long time, amazing MSG energy levels (floor bouncing and all) and all this was going on during a pretty ripping "Axilla" 

 When things wrapped up after a "Run Like an Antelope" >"Tweezer Reprise" encore, I couldn't have asked for anything more; it completely satisfied my Phish fix for exactly 364 days.  On 12/29 this year more old friends gathered in the "new" garden to get the festivities going.  Shortly stated, the first set on this night was top notch all around.  Every song was a highlight in some way, starting with "Y.E.M" as the second song, after a really old "Sloth" opener.  The second set was a mixed bag. 

One of my hang ups with Phish 3.0 (as to say 2.0 or pre-hiatus) is that there seems to be a lack of real adventure.  They still will jam out (and are the best live band I have ever seen) but in past incarnations of the group ANY song could explode into unexplored territory, and that just isn't the case with 3.0.  Now you get LOTS of songs per show, expertly played, and you can expect a bust out here or there...but that sense of pure abandon, or playing with zero net doesn't seem to be something they are that interested presenting anymore.  I always enjoyed a shallower song pool with the possibility that any song could be the platform for magic any night.  

One example of this is "Back On The Train" whose version from Nassau in 2003 blew my mind.  Here was a simple song of the bands that rolled into one of the highlight jams I ever heard them play.  It instantly became a favorite of mine and was a delight to hear tonight in the Garden with the same people I caught the barn burner in 03 with.        

That personal fav, leaked into a funky as all get out "MOMA Dance" before the band shifted it over gear during "Funky Bitch" which found Page McConnell playing his face off on his keys.  It has been said when Page is in high gear Phish will be rocking and that was exactly the case on this night:

They kept up the Page/Trey interwoven/dueling motif with a blistering (as always) "Maze" next before the much loved cover of Ween's "Roses are Free".  It is always fun to see fans cheer out to certain lines that apply to them and "Get In Your Car And Cruise The Land Of The Brave & Free" certainly adds up nicely with Phish's constantly touring fan base:

The "Halley's Comet" > "Run Like An Antelope"  set closer was a great way to cap off a fantastically scripted set.  No downers in the bunch and the arena was primed for things to soar even higher...   

With those opening notes of the Talking Heads live classic "Crosseyed & Painless" the 4 guys seemed to want to push the envelope as well while Fishman sang and Mike grooved away.  This is a fantastic cover by the band and one that shines the more exposure they give it.  

The "Simple" seemed a bit jarring and while a decent version that song benefits from bubbling up organically from a jam and surprising.  The fans seemed to really be pumped to hear "Lifeboy" but I am not really sure why as this ballad has never been one of the bands best, in fact it seemed to suck the life completely out of the second set and proves the point while and amazing live act, Phish has never really written a great song, arguably "Bouncing Around The Room" is their high water mark on that front. 

That evil pig "Guyute" tried to dance a jig and re-energize things via Chris Kuroda's consistently best light arraignment, but things really didn't pick back up until "Mike's Song" got down and funky.  The band surprised many in attendance by amping the rock factor by segueing into "Chalkdust Torture" which got the crowd cheering before flowing via hard rock riffs into "I Am Hydrogen"

That segue (13:45 in above video) had an Allman Brothers flair and was the highlight of the night as "Hydrogen" and "Chalkdust" proved they could meld nicely.  It would have been interesting to see the band keep this up longer, yet it showed they are not against toying with their own "classics".  The funky "Weekapaug Groove" followed, but the band clearly wanted to keep rocking and tried to do so via their new song "Show of Life" which plays like a classic rock radio number, very straight forward for this weird band.  It must be noted though a lot of fans flooded the bathrooms for this one before they rushed back for the set closing "Character Zero"  RtBE did just the opposite as Zero has never been a favorite and we were curious to hear the new tune.  

The rock jones was still alive in the Vermont foursome as they ripped out a screeching cover of the Rolling Stones classic "Loving Cup" to end the night via a killer one song encore.

While perhaps not as consistently great or personally pleasing as 12-30-10 this should hold me over for a long time with the band as there were glimpses of their past greatness, but a reminder that they just aren't the same band who I used to tour with in the late '90's early '00's, and that's fine for both of us...who knows though, maybe we will meet again for a show on Summer Tour this year.

1 comment:

  1. I once went to Phish's concert. The energy of people was really great; everybody enjoyed their rock performance.

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