Phish delivered the most explosive set of the Holiday Run right in the wheelhouse of Madison Square Garden’s three-night stand. While January 1st may have boasted a more complete overall show, no frame matched the big city setting better than the monstrous music of New Year’s Eve centerpiece. On, arguably, the nations biggest stage on the most celebrated night of the year, Phish used their middle frame to throw down an iconic holiday set of music that featured some of the band’s most exemplary playing of their five-night run.
Reigning in the entire audience with the Gamehendge, call-and-response anthem, “Wilson,” and then lighting The Garden aflame with the over-sized arena rock of “46 Days,” the pot was already boiling when Trey strummed the opening chords to “Sand.” A song that transformed from a platform for guitar bravado into an earnest whole-band conversation this fall, “Sand’s” final version of the year flooded the room with adrenaline. As Phish completed the brief lyrical section, they took a swan dive into some of their most dynamic improv of the night. The entire band played off Trey’s staccato licks — echoing, altering, and responding to his signature patterns. And within no time at all, the band engaged in a rhythmic boxing match, bobbing and weaving like Ali and Frazier in the same building 39 years earlier. With melodies dancing around each other like prize-fighters, Trey, Mike, and Page threw down several rounds of scorching interplay within a ten minute journey, all contained by Fishman’s squared-circle. Drawing raucous mid-jam roars from the juiced onlookers, Phish took this jam to the top in the, difficult-to-dispute, version of the year.
After a mid-set interlude of “NICU,” Phish got right back to business with the defining sequence of the set, and the night. The adventure began with the opening bass rumbling of “Down With Disease,” and continued right through the song’s high-speed rock and roll into a slowed down, menacing segment of music. As Phish slid smoothly into “Ghost,” one could feel The Garden inflate with excitement and energy. And following the path of an inspiring and uplifting jam, “Ghost” drove these initial emotions into the heavens. Playing the defining rendition of the song for the modern era, Phish sculpted a start-to-finish masterpiece that peaked with seething catharsis. Mike handed the lead to Trey amidst an uber-slick groove that never hiccuped for a second while bringing the show to its undeniable peak. After passing through minutes of smooth dance music, the band hit a collective harmony and ran for the sunset, rejoicing in a final segment of guitar-led, soul-tugging victory. Taking the jam to mountaintop and bringing 20,000 participants along, Phish molded the communal energy like Play-Doh in a frozen moment that will live forever in the MSG history.
And at the highest point of the evening, the band dropped into the opening arpeggios of their seminal piece, “You Enjoy Myself.” Precisely nailing the opening half of a piece that always shines at The Garden, when Phish dropped into the funk, the room became an aquarium of liquid grooves. Tickling the initial jam with what seemed like another “Manteca” tease — a playful theme of the fall, if not the entire year — the band, instead, broke into the full-on Dizzy Guillespe groove, with lyrics, for the first time of 2010. Segueing back into “YEM,” they continuously toyed with “Manteca,” singing “Crab in My Shoemouth,” within musical breaks for the duration of the jam, further amping the crowd with a display of musical Phishiness. Punctuating the set with series of sharp and styling grooves while drenching the building with unparalleled spirit, Phish had just dropped a masterpiece, and midnight was yet to come.
Though other sets brought different qualities to the table, New Year’s Eve’s second set blew up in a white-hot showcase of arena Phish that was dotted with some of Trey’s most impressive playing of the run. With Madison Square Garden in the palm of their hand once again, the band delivered another chapter of New Year’s lore than will find its rightful place in our eternal picture book of holiday memories.
Jam of the Day:
“Simple” 1.1.11 II
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
1.1.2011 Madison Square Garden
I: My Soul, Tube, Runaway Jim, Foam, Guelah Papyrus, The Divided Sky, Round Room, Walk Away, Gotta Jibboo, Reba > Walls of the Cave
II: Crosseyed and Painless, Twist, Simple, Sneakin’ Sally through the Alley, Makisupa Policeman > David Bowie
E: Fee, Frankenstein
Source: Schoeps mk41> KC5> M222> NT222> Aeta PSP-3> SD 744t (@24bit/96kHz)