Thursday, January 2, 2020

Live Review: Phish 12/28/19 MSG NYC

12/28/19 NYC, MSG 

Saturday night December 28th saw jam band icons Phish kick off their annual sold out New Year’s run at Madison Square Garden. This was the first of four nights in a row for the band and fans as the Phish organization commemorates 25 years of playing at the world’s most famous arena.

Even with the band recently completing an early winter north eastern tour, there were signs of getting back into the full swing of things as the show ebbed and flowed on this night, never settling into a vibe, yet it still contained some brilliant high-points from the quartet.

The group kicked off the whole event with a brand new understated ballad; an odd choice titled “Evening Song”, but then laid into a grooving “No Men in No Man’s Land” which bopped along confidently. While the group played a few of their songs which succeed in that funky style the most (“Ghost”, “Tube”, “Gotta Jibbo”) they were the best on this night when they just got to flat-out-rocking. This was demonstrated early on with show highlight “Down with Disease” which had guitarist Trey Anastasio jumping for joy during the intro.

This performance was a blazing showcase for his dynamite riffs and the band followed behind his lead. After this intense performance the group down shifted to their first ever country rock cover of “20/20 Vision” written by Geoffrey Morgan. This juxtaposition of style/tempos was constant and kept the night from taking off, while fans love to label set lists with segues, things never flowed from song to song until the final chaotic silly run of “Ass Handed” and “Chalkdust Torture Reprise”.

However, before that ending the band delivered a few rollicking efforts that are worth highlighting. An unexpected and delicate “Dog Faced Boy” was a pleasant surprise while first set closer “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S” received by far the best crowd reaction of the night with the full arena singing along. The booming cover of The Who’s “Drowned” let Page McConnell work his keyboards with style and ended with Jon Fishman singing some “Guy Forget” lyrics around his propulsive drumming.

The second sets biggest success was a meaty take on “Free” which had all four members locked in yet exploring their own sonic causeways, Mike Gordon’s bass leads were of particular note during this adventure. While they fully stopped before digging into a ripping “Piper” the thoughts of these songs epic pairing (in reverse) twenty years ago at Big Cypress certainly came to mind.

The band musically nodded to their host city with “On Broadway” flourishes during a restrained “Set Your Soul Free” and wrapped up the first show the run with a blistering bluegrass blast of “Rocky Top”, preparing to close out 2019 and usher in 2020 in the Big Apple once again.

SET 1: Evening Song[1], No Men In No Man's Land, Down with Disease, 20-20 Vision[2], Ghost, Gumbo > Rift, Weigh, Dog Faced Boy, Twenty Years Later > Tube > Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.

SET 2: Everything's Right > Beneath a Sea of Stars Part 1 > Set Your Soul Free -> Gotta Jibboo > Free > Piper, Drowned, Ass Handed > Chalk Dust Torture Reprise[3] > Character Zero ENCORE: A Life Beyond The Dream, Rocky Top

[1] Debut.
[2] Phish debut.
[3] With lyrics changed to Ass Handed.

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