Energy and Exploration

12.30.2010 Graham Lucas)

Phish came to New York locked and loaded with almost everything in their arsenal and a national audience of webcasters in tow to blow up the final days of 2010. But responding to the massive, self-built, hype Phish threw down a high-energy show that didn’t flow as nearly as organically as the two nights in Worcester. What amounted to a greatest hits parade with two significant jams, Phish played a certain crowd-pleaser that felt somewhat contrived for setlist — and potentially Internet — purposes. One song smashed right into another for most of the night in a show that carried the opposite vibe of the emotionally driven, delicate and nuanced jamming that took place in Massachusetts.

12.30 Print (Masthay)

The unquestionable centerpiece of the evening came in a gargantuan and exploratory second-set opening “Tweezer.” A jam that was distinctly split down the middle in two halves, Phish got into some tight “Tweezer” jamming for the first, and went into more abstract mode for the second. But the entire piece didn’t totally work for me for a couple reasons. First, after the initial no-brainer crack-grooves that kicked off the jam, the contained jamming sounded rather generic with some serious Trey work layered over the top. And then when the band jumped from ship to shore and explored like Lewis and Clark, they didn’t come up with all that much engaging material. Truly hooking up for only a few minutes of a largely meandering jam, Phish took this “Tweezer” deep into the forest, but spent more of the time searching for musical gold than discovering any.

Some sparse ambient interplay began the second jam segment as Mike stepped out front while everyone else laid back with minimalist offerings. Creating a quiet canvas, the band got into some intricate interplay, tossing ideas back and forth but never developing them for too long. However, when Page and Trey played staccato notes into a bubbling rhythmic pocket, the band did lock into a section of awesome atmospheric experimentation that morphed into the most exciting moments of the night. While I certainly applaud the effort and enjoy the several minutes of unique music that the band found deep into this version, it seemed very atypical of modern Phish to play a jam of this nature and not come up with a colossal payoff.

When looking at the year of 2010 and the song “Light,” one wouldn’t have been crazy to assume that MSG’s year-end version would blown up. But after the many jaw-dropping versions from fall, the song’s final outing left something to be desired. A disjointed opening of the jam came together for an experimental final segment of that seemed like it might bring the band somewhere significant. Yet, before this sequence was allowed to breathe, Phish quickly moved onto a rather sloppy “Theme” before anything really took off. Perhaps it was the pressure of the the big stage plus the webcast that effected the band last night, but much of the much of Phish’s playing felt forced and pre-packaged rather than fluid and organic.

12.30.2010 (G.Lucas)

The rest of the second set contained lots of songs but little substance to speak of aside from a few choice licks in “2001.” To be honest, this show felt much more like MSG ’09 than it did MSG 2010. Phish came out with a fiery setlist, but even their one exploratory jam couldn’t approach the mastery of last year’s “Light” played in the same building. All in a all, it was a fun show, but little, if any, groundbreaking music went down. The locked and loaded highlight of the night came in the first set “Bathtub Gin,” a scorching version that lit up the room proper. Playing collaboratively like no other time in the evening, the band nailed the final “Gin” of the year and cleverly followed it up with Little Feat’s “Fat Man In a Bathtub” — the welcome return of Waiting For Columbus’ opener. This peak of the first set continued as Phish took a full head of steam into “Timber Ho,” completing, in my opinion, the most high-octane three-song sequence of the evening.

12.30.2010 (G.Lucas)

Phish came out firing to start the first set with a string of favorites that included a “Cities” opener, a rare “Quinn The Eskimo,” and a scorching “Maze.” But also included in this sequence was a fourteen-year flashback to the Fleet Center’s first set of 12.30.96 when the PA cut out during “Funky Bitch.” This time the same sound problem happened during Camel Walk,”  but unlike the Fleet Center, Page was the only one who noticed the debacle while the rest of the band played on as if nothing had happened.

When the dust settles, though this show may have been fun, it doubt it will be remembered as one of the stronger efforts of this Holiday Run — and who would have expected me to say that with a twenty minute “Tweezer” involved! Compromising musical authenticity for setlist fire and a non-stop rock show, the band threw down an evening that didn’t build off Worcester, but arguably took a step backwards, with no jam approaching the virtuoso communication present in “Seven Below > What’s the Use?” or “Harry Hood.” I, now, wonder if this pay-per-view Phish is what we will see the next two nights, or if the band will play with the natural dynamics that were displayed throughout Worcester and most of fall tour, regardless what song they played.

Today, we step onto the fifteen year anniversary of of 12.31.95, the best New Year’s Eve show ever played indoors. And Phish finds themselves on the same stage as they did on that monumental evening so many years ago. In a building that used to house guaranteed Phish money shots, the band has now played four “energy-based” gigs within the confines of Madison Square Garden this era. Let’s hope the next two follow the trend of fall tour as evinced in Worcester, and are not a reprise into the setlist-based shows of Fall ’09. With a lot of anthems on the table, tonight could go either way. But New Year’s Eve and MSG just spell magic…we shall see in a short while.

Happy New Years Eve to all!

I: Cities, Chalk Dust Torture, Gumbo, Quinn the Eskimo, Halley’s Comet > Camel Walk*, Maze, Driver, Bathtub Gin, Fat Man in the Bathtub, Timber Ho, Golgi Apparatus, Character Zero

II: Tweezer > Light > Theme From the Bottom > My Friend, My Friend, Axilla, Fluffhead, Boogie On Reggae Woman > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Suzy Greenberg

E: Run Like an Antelope, Tweezer Reprise

* w/ PA issues

1,056 Responses to “Energy and Exploration”

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  1. phoammhead Says:

    first!

  2. jdub Says:

    Kind of surprised Miner didn’t love that Tweezer.

  3. James Says:

    Still can’t get over that hood jam from worcester!

  4. jdub Says:

    That Hood is like crack. But really one should listen from Frankie Says through Bug for the full effect.

  5. willowed Says:

    Repost
    A note to Phish about the stream.

    I had no intention of purchasing this. I thought watching it would make me angry for not deciding to go, missing out on a top notch opportunity to see the boys since I only live in CT. I was soooooo wrong. The stream was fantastic. What a phenomenal idea.
    My wife and I watched the whole thing from start to finish. We drank wine and beers and even puffed down a J. It was the next best thing to being there. Plus, we didn’t lose audio during Camel Walk. We were entranced by it. It was everything I could have asked for. So, thank you Phish for this fantastic idea.

    Much thanks to Silly for convincing me to buy it at 8:00 p.m. last night. Great rollin’ with the virtual BB. I think I may do it again tonight. But 1/1, I will be in the house for that one!!

  6. willowed Says:

    Thanks for the review Miner.
    I agree with you that the Gin>Fat Man>Timber was peak stuff.
    I loved the Tweezer licks and minimalist approach but I felt the Light, Theme needed work.
    I recall Plord and I mentioning that last night during the stream. The Theme was in trouble. Light never really got to “Light” status. I felt like it was going there….then kind of went flat.

    Fun show though.

  7. Jtoffer Says:

    The author must have been on some strange drugs for Worcester because last night was so much better. Amazing show and by the way the other night’s Hood doesn’t come close to 95. Seven Below>What’s the Use was pretty but you make things seem amazing sometimes and disregard the truly amazing shit…

  8. phoammhead Says:

    BEK and I ended up going to try to get a poster instead of meetup at rattle and hum – turned out that was not the right call – didn’t get a poster and didn’t make the meetup. oh well, sorry to you bbers at the meetup that were maybe expecting us. we went to rattle and hum after the show and that place was so overflowing we couldn’t deal – not sure if anyone tried to go there after the show

    show last night was a great time – the best way to describe it was beginning of show hose on to end of show hose off

    i agree with miner that the phlow was a little off and felt contrived, but i’m betting this show and some of its offerings get a lot of playtime when the dust settles

    i believe an emotive anthem like show of life or another ballad would have worked better for me later in the set or in place of suzy.

    all in all though we had a great time and the tweezer > light > theme > my friend > axilla was awesome!

    looking forward to tonight!

    Happy New Year! 🙂

  9. Pat Says:

    Miner, I believe you got this one wrong. Respect your opinion, can’t believe you weren’t more into that Tweezer, but that was a complete, top to bottom, 2 full set effort. This was an outstanding show…sloppy Theme? Totally disagree….plus the segue from Theme->My Friend was truly spectacular.

  10. benhatley Says:

    pretty apt review. nye 95 is the best nye show played indoors? damn son, it’s the best nye show played anywhere!

  11. Mr.Miner Says:

    “by the way the other night’s Hood doesn’t come close to 95”

    ^ lol @ the author of this comment, I wonder what type of drugs they were on in Worcester 😉

  12. SillyWilly Says:

    @Willowed

    I’m glad you and your wife had fun. Its just a better Phish experience for all of us when you’re involved, man.

  13. nedboy7 Says:

    im glad someone told me what the best nye show ever was. because everything must be compared and put into a neat order. what a joke.

  14. BigNasty Says:

    The boys did their best to cover all the bases on this show. It was a big challenge considering the holiday, the venue and the huge audience.

    Way to be brave, Phish. Love to see the band breaking new ground with the stream.

    …so A+ for effort and thanks for the stream!!!

    But – I agree with Miner… The band looked a little uncomfortable at times. I was afraid that the stream pressure would squash the magic, and that seems to be the case imo.

    It was like the band was imitating himself at times for the big audience. to me, the Tweeze was imitatation magic..not the real IT ala Miami.

    I must admit I do love the stream, such a treat to look in from my house. And the close ups are soooo sweet. Footbell jam!

    the Jen Dances comment was…funny but contrived?

    mixed feelings on the whole thing

  15. Mikesgroover Says:

    I don’t always agree with Mr. Miner, but I think his analysis on this one is pretty spot on.

  16. del Says:

    you’re finally noticing that this band has lost it.

    “it’s over, johnny.”

    as i just said to a friend, seeing phish for many is like going to a high end restaurant that has lost it’s superstar chef. most people have no idea what the difference is; it’s just good food. but those truly in the know, and really looking for something special can tell it’s not anything close to what it once was.

    last night i miracled some guy at 8:15, rather than walk in the building because i knew what was to come.

    i hope the guy in sec 76, Row 4, Seat 1 had a blast…

  17. jdub Says:

    ^Big Cypress was technically 1/1/00 so yeay, 12/31/95 is the best NYE show.

    This review should bring some lurkers out. Worcester was a psychedelic masterpiece really. Last night was a straight up rocker with some tasty highlights. I can see were Miner is coming from quite frankly. I think I like that Tweezer more than him though. Very experimental at times, and it is hard to not get excited about a second jam segment in a 3.0 Tweezer, doesn’t happen all that often.

  18. Dr. Pronoia Says:

    As always happens after actually having been at a show, I can’t separate out a musical analysis from the overall experience. And when it comes to overall experience, I’m a totally fluffer.

    Having missed the Fall completely, I was so excited to see this show, and after hanging with AJ, Butterfly, and Neemor yesterday afternoon and meeting up with more BB’ers at R&H, I was totally pumped and attuned by lights down.

    I loved the first set. After Quinn, which was very powerful for personal reasons, they could’ve played anything else the rest of the night, but the second half of the first set was really tightly played and high energy, as Miner notes.

    When asked what I wanted to hear 2nd set at setbreak, Tweezer, Light, and 2001 were my top choices. I LOVED the tweezer jam, and how it combined subtle melodic improv over a thick, relentless groove. The light was weirdly dissonant to me and lacked payoff (I was hoping for more transcendence), I agree, and the theme never caught full release either.

    The rest of the set alternated between groove and epic MSG peaks, in exactly the type of dance-through-the-people, cathartic experience I was looking for. I was drenched by the end of that ‘lope>tweeprise.

    I only relistened to the tweezer>light last night, so maybe the actual music will be somewhat diminished on full playback, but I doubt it will fall far from my initial in-the-moment impression. Different strokes and all…

    Have a great time tonight everyone, and Happy New Year! See you at 1/1

  19. Mikesgroove Says:

    “Today, we step onto the fifteen year anniversary of of 12.31.95, the best New Year’s Eve show ever played indoors.”
    …..easy there cowboy. Maybe so, maybe not. For me, Centrum 93 was the best I have seen. But that’s just cause it was a culmination of what I believed to be the best year of Phish. To each their own.
    Have a blast tonight all, wish I could be there freezing my nuts off outside like the days of old.

  20. Corey Says:

    First off, how was Trey’s voice tonight? Definitely difficult time singing the last two shows.
    Second, regardless of an intense rock build, that Harry Hood was one of the coolest versions they’ve ever played…bday bias or no bday bias.
    Third, glad ya’ll got some nice tunes, but I’ll take the slightly more original effort on Tuesday. (just bustin’ chops, kids…some of you were wishing for a less than stellar show in Woosta so that NYC could have it all).
    Fourth, for all you Rattle and Hummers (sorry), how about a version of New Years Day by U2 on 1.1.11? Seems appropriate. Heck, how about Joshua Tree followed by Game.?
    G’night all. Happy New Years to ya’ll too!!

  21. lastwaltzer Says:

    Miner, thanks for the review. Hopefully this sets us up for something big tonight…………..Hope to see some of you kids up there.

    I’m leaving for the big apple aroud 1:15 should be in by 2:30. if you got my number hit me.

    Peace kids, see ya in the new year…………………..just don’t forget

    really dont

    most people are afraid to talk about death but not afraid of driving a car.

  22. jtran Says:

    Agree with Miner on the review, disagree about the Tweezer. We’ll see what tonight brings. I’m sure the band will settle down

  23. Dr. Pronoia Says:

    Oh, and a question about the stream: Do you have to log in on time? I’ll be getting back from a late dinner, hoping to catch the last 2 sets. Is this doable?

  24. Mr.Miner Says:

    @ nasty. Couldn’t agree with your analysis more

  25. barefootbob Says:

    As much as I respect Minor’s opinion – I like to say that the review is odd. I have never watched from home (obviously) so maybe that changes things but I totally disagree. Not Fluid? Contrived? Dont get it Minor. This is a show I would have pegged for your to write up a positive review. (scratching head)

    I thought it was unbelievable and think it some of their finest 3.0 to date.

    Hopefully, tonight’s wont feel as ‘planned’

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