Thursday, January 14, 2016

Live Review: Phish 12/30/15 MSG, NYC

Live 12/30/15
The Vermont quartet Phish made the world's most famous arena it's home once again to see out an old year and welcome in a new one for 2015/16. The band has played lots of sold out shows in MSG and this would be the first of another four where the group showcased their experimental rock and roll.

The band begin the MSG run with some of our personal favorite songs of theirs during the first set. "Sample In A Jar", "Get Back On The Train" and closer "46 Days" were all good upbeat numbers to shake the rust of, while newer outings like "Waiting All Night" and "555" presented the bands newer songwriting efforts, the first more successfully then the second.

Set highlights would come in the free form early "Free", a swirling "Roggae" that was expertly augmented by Chris Kuroda's light show and a Halloween throwback to an energetic cover of Disney's sound effect's with "The Dogs".

Some nights one of the foursome seems to shine a bit brighter then the rest and on this night the dress wearing human octopus behind the drum kit was the star. Throughout the first set it really felt like Fishman was the directing force, keeping the beat while moving forward as Page Trey and Mike worked to catch the groove and follow.
The second set featured some more cohesive playing as the band opened with "Chalkdust Torture" as Anastasio sang school age gripes over fret board fireworks. When the song seemed to be wrapping up the red headed frontman had other ideas and twisted things into an exploratory jam, wandering into funky terrain for over 22 minutes.

Fan favorite "Ghost" popped up and things looked to be getting deep into the groove/cow-funk, but the band loves to throw curve balls and made a left turn into a brand new straight up rock number named "Can't Always Listen".

The debut of the new song was interesting but disrupted the flow of "Ghost" which the band tried to get back into, never achieving that locked and loaded feel before opting for the more airy and scenic "Waves". The regroup then turned old school with the "underwater" vibe as a large mid set "Bathtub Gin" got the packed house singing along; all in it together.

Feeding off the energy, the group began "Mike's Song" signalling a powerful close to the show. This version was nothing spectacular but an oddly placed "Bouncing Around the Room" became a pleasantly unique offering. The real fireworks started though with "Weekapaug Groove" which segued into and out of one of Phish's best instrumentals titled "What's The Use?". Fishman again shined and the band as a whole gelled gloriously marking an experimental highlight on this night.

For RtBE, seeing Phish at this point is more of a happy experience then a life altering musical night, which it certainly once was. Phish shows now are more about catching up with old friends, and remembering great times as opposed to blowing up the night and creating new ones or even being too critical and over bearing about song choices or performances.

They are the still the best live act we have had the privilege to catch and remain strong, if not as explosive as they once were. Version 3.0 of the band isn't our favorite incarnation but it may be the most solid. Phish consistently deliver quality performances night after night and 12/30/15 was just the start of another great run that we hope continues through their Mexican Standoff this weekend, gotta be a "Mexican Cousin" opener right?  
Another fun show, seen with great friends. Thanks Phish, a blast as always, support them and most importantly catch them live.

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