Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Live Review: Top Ten Moments of Phish's 2022 New Years Run

For the first time RtBE decided to join the Vermont foursome for all four shows on their annual NYE run at Madison Square Garden.

Dating back to 1997 RtBE has been to at least one show of the NYE run at MSG each time Phish has played the venue, but have never done the full four shows. So 2022 was the year all were witnessed in person from Section 224, Row 4, Seats 7 and 8. 

Beautiful views from the middle of Madison Square Garden for four nights of adventurous rock and roll from Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Page McConnell and Jon Fishman. The band was in much better form from the last time we caught them, 4/20/22 and below are the Top Ten moments of the run to these eyes and ears. 
#10 Nary a Cover To Be Heard...
The band stuck to original tunes for the majority of this run, The first cover to appear was the extended take on TV on The Radio's "Golden Age" on 12/30 in the second set, and it was a doozy. The band saved their cover love for NYE with a bunch of bust outs, but we will get to that later.  

#9 Rift Dancer
"Rift" in the first set of 12/31 found the band delivering a fine version, but my attention was glued on the first row behind the stage as a woman in a pink dress had a red spotlight on her for the majority of the song and used it splendidly. Dancing with style and grace, fans always add to the show, but rarely in such a visual way. 

#8 Getting Lost In The Flow
While 12/30 was our least favorite show of the run, with jams that felt a touch aimless in the second set, (a few other friends really enjoyed this show, claiming it was the best of the run, so to each their own), there was no denying that Phish was getting out there. Multiple times in the second set I had to stop and take note of what song the group was playing. 

The five song set found adventurous territory as the band kept things interesting for fans and the group alike. The opening "No Men In No Man's Land" was an all-time version as was the already mentioned "Golden Age" as was "Sand" and set closer "I Always Wanted It This Way".  Also a nod to 12/28's second set "Wave of Hope" a newer tune which went in multiple directions as well which brings us to that night...

#7 Starting Off With A Bang
Usually the first set of the NYE run is the weakest, with the group feeling each other out after not having played together for a while, not the case this year. Trey reached super crescendos during the kickoff set highlight "Wolfman's Brother", which went for rock instead of funk this outing while a dynamite "Stash" was well jammed with some bombs dropped by Mike that rattled the Garden.  

A cool "Tela" (my first in 87 shows at that point) was a rare treat and the set closing free-noise jamming of "Split Open and Melt" was the most out there I have ever heard Phish get with that tune; it was reminiscent of mid-70's "Playin' In The Band" freak-outs from the Grateful Dead. A powerful opening statement from the quartet.  

#6 Stepping into the Freezer
The easiest call of the run was "Tweezer" showing up on NYE and yet the group raised expectations with a dynamic opening blast of the song. The band used "Tweezer" as a springboard, dipping back into it a few times and wrapped up with the soul affirming "Tweeprise" to end a mega night of music.

The opening jam of the song though was fantastic and a great way to start New Years Eve.

#5 CK5
New lights, old lights, freaky lights, swirling lights, perfectly timed lights. Chris Kuroda and his team deserve mention as they add such an amazing dynamic to the groups live show.

#4 Fluff Came To...
The band dipped back to their earliest days, opening the second night of the run with the dynamic "Fluffhead". 

This version nailed all of the intricate sections and then flowed out into an elegant jam which soared for an extended time before seamlessly flowing into a cool version of "My Pet Cat". An excellent way to kick off a strong show which also featured...

#3 ...YEMSG
The second set of the 12/29 show was anchored by another warhorse of Phish's past, "You Enjoy Myself".  This version was a doozy which got funky and meaty with the jam. A clear highlight from a rock solid set which also included a great "Get Back On The Train" and a "David Bowie" opener. It was YEM though which took the prize as the ultimate tune on this night. 
#2 Exploratory In New Ways
During a set break on 12/29 I managed to catch up with an old friend who has seen countless shows. In discussing the current state of the band he mentioned this phrase and it stuck with me the whole run, 'they are being exploratory in new ways'. I already mentioned the rocking "Wolfman's Brother" and the free jazz of "Split Open and Melt" but the band continued to toss curveballs with their style of playing, keeping it fresh for us longtime fans and, I am assuming, themselves.

"Tube" went for blissful rock instead of down and dirty funky,  "Weekapaug Groove" was more mellow than usual and other examples of really unique playing from the group flowed out each night. This really was a top notch four night run from the group who seem revitalized entering their 40th year. Which kicked off with the overall highlight... 

#1 New Years Eve Set Three
While each show was really stellar, the band saved their best for last. This is not always the case with New Year Run's, but it certainly was for 2022-23. 

While the already mentioned "Tweezer" was a stand out of the first set and "Light > Waste" highlighted the second set, it was the third set which blew the doors off MSG.

From the group kicking off their 40th year as a band in style with "Ghost", a gospel choir, marching band and dancers, to go along with "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Jungle Love" to the final notes of "Tweezer Reprise" Phish was on fire. A major "Carini" complete with 'naked' dancers, a soaring "Prince Caspian", a dynamite "Crosseyed and Painless", a burning "Piper", and ripping "First Tube" found the band at their ultimate peak.

The group closed powerfully but really this whole run was some of the strongest Phish has played in a while as each night proved special and made the closing of 2022 and the start of 2023 very memorable.  

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