A Sterile Saturday Night

12.28.12 (Graham Lucas)

Shows like Saturday night’s at Madison Square Garden leave me scratching my head, wondering what, exactly, the band was intending to do. Following an opening night that laid the groundwork for a stellar run, the guys came out on one of the holiest days of the Phish calendar, 12/29, and barely attempted a lick of open improv. Following Denver’s revelation and a monumental “Tweezer” on the 28th, one had to expect at least a chunk of musical risk-taking on night two. But with one sonic body blow after another, they guys made it a point try absolutely nothing. There is no doubt that they played their songs quite well, and nobody can take that away from them, though we expect Phish to play their songs proficiently at this stage of the game. However, if we are calibrating shows by their level of cerebral engagement—music that enraptures one’s wildest imagination—12/29 was the least impressive of the year by leaps and bounds.

12.29.12 Official (J. Flames)

Before going any further, let me state—once again—that I go to Phish shows to see them jam; to witness the band weave musical memories in real time. If I wanted to listen to Phish songs, I could throw one of many CDs to happily meet that desire. But shows are supposed to be something more. Phish shows are the times when we have the privilege to be awed by the superhuman powers of the most magical musicians on earth. But there was nothing magical about last night at all. With little rhyme or reason, the guys sculpted a piecemeal setlist that possessed no direction or vigor whatsoever. I would love to write about the improvisational highlights of the show but there were none. Zero. Zilch. A few minutes of bland, quasi-connected, atmospheric funk out of “Golden Age” represented the band’s only attempt at any sort of jamming. Even songs like “Rock and Roll,” “Reba,” “Bathtub Gin” and “Waves” that almost always feature exciting improv were delivered in straight forward and unspectacular fashion. There were plenty of high-energy moments—specifically “Suzy Greenberg” and “46 Days”—but those are meant to be the supporting cast, not the lead actors.

The concern that now comes into play for this Holiday Run is whether the 28th will wind up as the best show of the run, just as it was a year ago. It felt like Dick’s provided a pivot point in the development of modern Phish. It seemed that the guys had their hearts rededicated to sophisticated musical experimentation, and that the “hit or miss” aspect that has annoyingly pervaded 3.0 was a thing of the past. But after last night’s song-based snoozefest, that all seems like wishful thinking. Perhaps the 29th was just a bump in the road, but by anyone’s standards, it felt virtually inconceivable that the band would pull out such a performance on Saturday night at the Garden. But they did. And there is nothing to do but smile, put it behind us, and comeback on the 30th for a massive bounce back night of improvisation.

I: Crowd Control, Mound, AC/DC Bag, Rock and Roll, Sugar Shack, Reba, Halley’s Comet > Limb By Limb*, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Bathtub Gin**

II: Golden Age > Waves > Prince Caspian*** > Boogie On Reggae Woman, Suzy Greenberg, Bug, Cavern, 46 Days

E: The Squirming Coil, Grind, First Tube

*Follow the Yellow Brick Road tease
**”Susie Q” quote from Fishman
***Unfinished

12.28.12 (Graham Lucas)

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673 Responses to “A Sterile Saturday Night”

  1. RoosterPizza Says:

    Score’s man got a new tattoo.

  2. kayatosh Says:

    anything but me is a great song, despite it’s sap.

    you’ve become an island in the hazy world surrounding me
    offering a vast reward, each time i safely cross the sea

    play it tonight.

  3. kayatosh Says:

    ^^^ its sap

    before the grammar police. is he still on patrol? long time no BB.

  4. Marcoesq Says:

    Does it say TOPLESS ?

  5. kayatosh Says:

    practice. rooster. iverson.

  6. RoosterPizza Says:

    I am listening to last night for the first time, and I would not have bet on Waves being a dud out of GA.

  7. kayatosh Says:

    waves a dud? wtf happened?

  8. RoosterPizza Says:

    You should change your pic to Iverson stepping over Tyon Lue in the finals.

  9. Marcoesq Says:

    So disappointing rooster. Set had such potential

  10. RoosterPizza Says:

    GA Waves is an exciting 1-2 punch on paper

  11. RoosterPizza Says:

    Yeah, I’d say. Any trips up this way coming up?

  12. Dr pronoia Says:

    About 10 ft in front of mikes kit in case anyone is in GA west

  13. kayatosh Says:

    get some, doc. P.

  14. kayatosh Says:

    cheers to Army of one on night one.

  15. roberto luongo Says:

    Performance on par with arizer but smaller less klunky and superior magnetic flat surfaced bottom load system.

    But smaller size and easier load id say are high points design wise.

  16. kayatosh Says:

    ^^yep. pax way more james bondish. arizer looks like something a nursing home resident might use.

    spinning 28th tweezer.

  17. Dr pronoia Says:

    Enjoy, kaya. Good to have you back

    Really pumped to be this close

  18. kayatosh Says:

    thanks, doc. psyched for you.

  19. tela'smuff Says:

    loved that Wolfmans>LDB. upon replay it’s f’in good

  20. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I have a great feeling about tonight.

  21. PigSong Says:

    ahhhh, to webcast or not to webcast. convince me one way or the other please.

    Same set up as last night at the inlaws – cooking another feast, lobster tonight, more beers.

  22. plord Says:

    Talking Heads pre-show music. Always a good sign.

  23. kayatosh Says:

    nice call, plord.

    i’m in on the W-cast. here’s to a memorable one. make it cerebral, phish.

  24. MiA Says:

    Kaya!

  25. sumodie Says:

    I hope troy doesnt make me cry tonight

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