Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Live Review: Phish 7/30/17 MSG, NY, NY

Live @ Madison Square Garden
New York, New York 

Here was night eight of the Bakers Dozen Phish run and our first chance to jump into the donut goodness of Phish's historic set of shows at Madison Square Garden. RtBE have been into Phish for a long time now and more than any other band this groups shows (and the reviews) are more personal than most others because this was the band that really ignited our passion for live music.

This night was our 82nd time seeing the band and it was a great testament to what we loved about them as artists and what has made us semi move on from them in listening/loving ways. There is no doubt about it; Phish are the best live act we have ever scene on stage. The amount of times they interlock musically is astronomical at this point, but they are also almost incapable of constructing tight, short songs that transcend moments lyrically and spiritually (especially in the studio). Recent shows for us have focused more on the negative, but tonight reminded us why we fell in love in the first place.

During the Bakers Dozen shows, Phish did not repeat a song and let the daily donut theme influence the set list, this nights theme was "Jimmy's" or as New Yorker's say, "Sprinkles". In this case though we bow to the Philly/Vermont "Jimmy's" as we knew a few old tunes would make an appearance and we guessed a few covers that also showed up.

The first set kicked off with one of the classic Phish set one openers, "The Curtain With" which was gorgeously played before the band jumped (predictably) into "Runaway Jim". While this version was short and to the point (along with newer tunes "Waking Up Dead" and "Home"), a curve ball of "Esther" bubbled out with it's evil doll ways. The fact the band was willing to dip all the way back to their beginning (over 30 years ago) proved this run special, where as recent tours had a bust out or two, the Bakers Dozen was chock full of songs the band hadn't played in years, sometimes decades.

While the "Colonel Forbin's > Fly Famous Mockingbird" combo was joyful and the "David Bowie" closer a gas, it was the more delicate "Brian and Robert" that somehow stuck to these ears at set break.While the madcap madness has dulled as the band has aged, the fact that they can turn up the sentiment on a mood song like this speaks volumes.

Many nights at a Phish show it is hard to agree on the jam of the night but from the moment the second set opener "Drowned" kicked open the floodgates until the waves faded on "A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing" the band was full full throttle. This adventurous free form rock and roll is what Trey, Mike Page and Jon are all about; while this night will not go down as an all time must listen this segment will ring in these ears for a long long time.

Amazingly a showstopper like "Harpua" actually ground the show to a halt. The classic song (whose protagonist Jimmy fit the theme on this night) contained a drawn out, written dialog about the nature of the universe and astrophysics. While this could have been saved by say a Neil deGrasse Tyson guest spot, it was a real mood killer. The band instantly tried to kick it back up with a funky "2001" and a cheery "Golgi Apparatus" but the point where most shows take off, this one retreated back into a donut shaped black hole.

However, the band made up for some lacking energy with a pitch perfect cover of Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary". This encore also highlighted another development of Phish in 2017; where in the past the best vocals of the group belonged to Page McConnell, now a sober and nuanced Trey Anastasio has added gravity, age and wisdom to his singing voice in a captivating way.

The Bakers Dozen will prove to be one of the best run of shows ever (any year, any venues) and it was a joy to remember exactly why this band has captivated so many ears on so many nights.
Support the band, see them live and peep both set openers below:

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