Opening the Freezer

12.28.12, MSG (Graham Lucas)

On the first night of their highly anticipated 2012 New Year’s Run, Phish stepped onto the Garden’s stage and stunned their audience with an era-defining rendition of “Tweezer,” invoking the improvisational spirit we witnessed in Denver just months ago. Showing no signs of rust from their extensive off-season, the guys backed up the night’s monstrous centerpiece with highlights of “Wolfman’s Brother” and “David Bowie,” not to mention rock solid play throughout the show. Watching the band play with such polish and confidence on the first night of the run brought unbridled enthusiasm not only for the music that went down, but for the limitless possibilities that the next three nights now contain.

Official 12.28 Print (J.Flames)

Following a straightforward opening set, less a stellar “Wolfman’s” closer, Phish could hold back no more and tore open the universe at the start of the second with a free-form, to-die-for “Tweezer” that needs to be heard to be believed. The band connected the many movements of this masterpiece with a criminal smoothness, resulting in an ego-less and sophisticated musical adventure that is beginning to define the new contour of Phish jams. Harnessing the egalitarian improvisational gusto unveiled in the Rockies over Labor Day weekend, Phish played a jam in which nobody dominated while different members stepped up to lead throughout. Courageous, utterly refined, and woven with meticulous precision, this “Tweezer” proved that the music of Denver was no mile-high fluke, but a legitimate turning point in the course of the band’s modern chapter. Trey’s playing, a topic deserving of its own paragraph, was defined by both confidence and cooperation, leading when he saw fit and stepping back just as effectively in other parts of the jam. Moving from a soaring beginning to a bass-led, bliss-laden middle, onto an more minimalist, melodic section before finishing in a profound sonic convergence, this fully-realized jam brought a bit of everything into the mix, vividly illustrating why we go to such lengths to see Phish perform. Astounding in every sense of the word, “Tweezer” was the stuff of musical reverie and provides a gem of 2012 that can only be rivaled by Dick’s “Light.” And if this happened on night one of the run, there is unquestionably more to come. Wow!

12.28.12 (G.Lucas)

Though this spine-tingling exploration stole the show, there are other points of note as well, first and foremost, the guitar showcase of one Trey Anastasio. Shining bright all night long, Trey played masterfully in all milieus without ever dominating jams. Assertive yet deferring at the perfect times, Trey’s leadership stood out around every corner in both sets. With scorching solos in “Maze” and “Theme,” carefully integrated offerings in “Stash” and “Twist,” dirty, rhythmic swank in “Wolfman’s,” and minimalist guidance in “Bowie,” Trey’s discerning aesthetic was a huge takeaway from the first night at MSG. Armed with a seemingly limitless arsenal of evolved techniques, he was up to any task last night, and something tells me the next three nights won’t be any different. It has been a long journey for Trey to reach this point of proficiency in the modern era, but he has truly arrived once again.

Improvisationally speaking, “Wolfman’s” and “Bowie” provided the other high points of the night. Using the former as a first set closer, the guys took “Wolfman’s” in a more original direction than they have in recent memory. Splashing into atypical funk textures, they passed through “stop-and-go-ish” type jamming before moving further away from structure and into a seductive exchange in which Trey infused the progression of “Little Drummer Boy.” The whole band immediately picked up on the holiday spirit, as they integrated the song into the jam without ever losing the groove. Then, on a dime, they melted right back into the funk. But instead of jumping to the song’s ending, they guys infused a blues build into the jam that creatively returned them to “Wolfman’s.” Taking a bow and moving into setbreak, this piece got their creative juices flowing after a high-energy opening frame—and you know what happened next.

12.28.12 (Graham Lucas)

Closing the second set, “David Bowie” provided the other musical high point of the show. The band united in a gritty conversation that built in intensity throughout, giving the audience a glimpse into the song’s ethos. A sinister tone pervaded the jam and the intricate exchange never lost momentum, as Phish stamped a strong conclusion on the night with a revitalized version of a song that has lost its way in recent years. In between “Tweezer” and “Bowie,” the guys sandwiched some intense jamming with “Maze” and “Twist,” but neither moved outside of the box.

If the band had just played “Tweezer” and walked off stage, it would have been plenty to satiate much of the Garden’s crowd last night. But supporting the monumental jam with high-energy selections and two bounce back jams in a couple of classic vehicles, Phish delivered a very strong opening course to their four night extravaganza. And as we look forward to nights two, three and four, the questions are out the window and only excitement remains.

I: Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, The Moma Dance, Funky Bitch, Army of One, Tube, Stash, Nellie Kane, Kill Devil Falls, Free, Wolfman’s Brother -> The Little Drummer Boy -> Wolfman’s

II: Tweezer -> Maze, Twist* > Theme From the Bottom, Fluffhead, David Bowie

E: Bouncing Around the Room, Good Times Bad Times

*Little Drummer Boy teases and quotes

12.28.12, MSG (G.Lucas)

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525 Responses to “Opening the Freezer”

  1. [Not Tom] Says:

    Even at 50 Fishman still has the grin of a baby.

  2. YborCity Says:

    Just realized it’s Saturday…. here’s to hoping that we only got a Saturday Night Special!

  3. c0wfunk Says:

    Night kids see yous same bat time

  4. Dr pronoia Says:


  5. DryIceFactory Says:

    Wow that show, I can totally leave on the table.

  6. DryIceFactory Says:

    With that said, I bet a lot of people (especially on this board) really liked it. And good for you. But that wasn’t my cup of tea. Other than the pornofunk that ensued in Golden Age, and the hot fire in Gin and 46 Days, I can leave this one behind. I missed most of Waves on the phone.

  7. Kevin Says:

    It happens. Even the best 4 night runs have off nights. Here’s hoping the next two nights leave the memories in the dust.

  8. Sakyamuni Says:

    Heard it on the webcast:

    Right before Bug someone yelled, “Anything But Me!,” and someone answered back, “anything but this!”

    (Thanks again, Brahmin)

  9. [Not Tom] Says:

    Tonight was a piece of the phish puzzle. It’s like seasons. You wouldn’t recognize spring it not for fall and winter. Some shows are just made up if pure energy and don’t have the jams. It takes all kinds.

  10. xpun Says:

    That show was transcendental for everything involved with this band

  11. Slim Charles Says:

    If you were there, this was an incredible show. Surprised at the negativity online

  12. roberto luongo Says:

    Post GA= terrible

    Bad rock show

    Nice reba.

  13. roberto luongo Says:

    Treys intent. Tweezer and GA. Rest blah.

  14. ren Says:

    Fun time tonight. What it’s all about kidz.

    Tomorrow won’t come quick enough…but will probably come too quickly

  15. ren Says:

    Wish they would have brought more of the FUNK…especially in that 46 Days…Troy even said he wanted it….maybe tomorrow in a nice Garden dismantling 2001

  16. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    uh oh

  17. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    again mike, stop taking leads with that annoying effect.

  18. thedayman Says:

    Boring show.. what can ya dew.. tomorrow will rage, wish I was gonna be there

  19. ren Says:

    I imagine it’s not too easy to navigate a 4 day setlist. Defintely have a full belly….and ready for thirds.

    Can’t wait to see what they bring torrow.

    GA looked like a good time from my vantage point. Saw some peeps raging pretty hard and just assumed it was the BB towards the rear of the first pit…slighter Page side

  20. xpun Says:

    Took in second set from 300 balcony. Section was bouncing. No talkers all dancers. Great veg out view of everything unfolding in front of you

  21. SillyWilly Says:

    Its the mother fucking Pig N Whistle

  22. sumodie Says:

    Good high energy show thru & thru. True, nothing deeper than that nutzo GA, esp coupled with Waves & that Caspian. Rest of set cawk rawked but i dug it alk the way

    46 Days peaked hard, awesome set closer, incredible energy on that one

    Very fun show here in nyc, tho the same show played in the middle of summer tour wouldve frustrated me. Maybe Im used to the no fall tour/msg run routine.

    Awesome sound from top of section 114 beside page. Last night was front row 114 but the sound wasnt the best

    Some of us have realized that the venue is sonewhat different from last year. Last year’s half court shortened walkway (compared with the original 360 waljway) above the 100s is completely gone, replaced with luxury boxes. Guess last year they hadnt fully installed all the boxes

    Two more shows!!

  23. sumodie Says:

    MSG crowd seems better than last year, so far. Who knows if it’s just my perception or reality

    What’s with Mike switching guitars just before Boogie?

    Love his new effects, more please

  24. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    mike’s effects sound cool but they prevent any coherent jamming from occurring.

    the crowd has been quite good the last 2 nights in GA for me. very little talking and an overall respect for space. and i was right up front tonight.

  25. butter Says:

    For whatever reason – even thru the video stream, the crowd seems better

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