Phish | 12.04.09 | MSG Night 3

Words by: Brian Bavosa

Phish :: 12.04.09 :: Madison Square Garden :: New York, NY

Phish :: 12.03 :: MSG by Perrucci
The final night of Phish's return to MSG fell on Friday night, and saw the crowd a little more rambunctious than the previous two evenings. For the first time, there seemed to be a market for tickets, as many outside begged and pleaded to get themselves through the doors. For those that did make it in, MSG3 offered some bust outs, firsts and some classic, rocking Phish.

"Heavy Things" offered a light-hearted start, as many fans still scrambled to get situated, as the lines to get in were far worse than the previous two shows. "Possum," "Wilson" - the first song Phish ever played at the Garden in '94 - and "Kill Devil Falls" was a sequence of straightforward, soaring guitar rock, which set the tone for a powerhouse Friday night in NYC.

The first, real treat was the return of "Glide," a song not performed since the infamous debacle of Coventry. This version saw Trey nail the guitar parts, as Fishman tackled the knick-knack of the drums. From the plastered smiles on the crowd, it appeared that few cared how they played this one; they were just happy to be seeing it again.

A smoking "46 Days" was patient, yet fierce in its rocking and frolicking, while "Bouncing Around the Room" and "Reba" offered a blissful mid-set portion. "Reba" showcased lighting director Kuroda at his best, using the patented "bubbles" to illuminate the floor before ascending to the rafters along with the song's jam. "Dinner and a Movie," another real treat, saw the juxtaposition of tempos with a breakneck barreling down a highway vibe pushed against the song's lazy, lullaby chorus.

Trey :: 12.02 :: MSG by Perrucci
The stage was set for the sixth and final set of the MSG run with "Maze" and "First Tube." Trey has often remarked that a Phish show for him is all about the energy. If so, he must have exploded during "First Tube." The place was simply going bonkers in the way only an MSG crowd can. It's hard to explain, but in this building everyone just becomes affected a little bit differently. Trey was jumping around, slashing his guitar with a huge Cheshire cat grin on his face. Overall, a well played, wide ranging 12 song first set with a steady incline of energy, like the ascent of a roller coaster that started its freefall during "First Tube" before the wild loop-de-loops to come in set two.

"Scents and Subtle Sounds," another song not performed since '04, was a completely unexpected surprise. A song that defined '03 and '04, many couldn't help but think back to this tune's debut over six years ago in Phoenix, as well as Phish performing this track about 20 blocks away on top of the Letterman marquee on what appeared to be their farewell tour. This song featured some great textures, and as I looked around I saw the masses grow enraptured by the weaving strands of the composition. In the past, it could have been five or 35 minutes. This one came in on the shorter end, but it was all that was needed. A blissful second set opener that brought back memories of Phish 2.0.

Not ones to mess around, Phish got back to the rocking shortly thereafter with The Velvet Underground's "Rock and Roll." Another tune that the crowd was primed for, when Page belted out the lines, "Then one fine mornin' she puts on a New York station/ You know, she couldn't believe what she heard at all/ She started dancin' to that fine fine music/ You know her life was saved by rock 'n' roll," the place exploded. "Rock and Roll" eventually wound down and found its way to "Seven Below," with the infectious hook by Trey leading the way and some synth action by McConnell. Again, this tune, and the following "Twist," featured some great textures like the opening "Scents." "Twist" saw the place do just that, complete with accompanying calls of "Whoo!" during the chorus.

Everything came to a head with the song of the night: "Mike's Song." An absolutely blistering, razor sharp rendition, the energy in the building was at the highest of the run, with Phish fucking nailing it. The transitions were perfect and the band was hell-bent on offering an earth-shattering version. It landed in old counterpart, the beautiful "I Am Hydrogen," before the slap bass breakdown and dance party of "Weekapaug Groove." Clocking in at just over 15 minutes, the "Mike's Groove" was short, sweet and certainly to the point, with "Mike's Song" doing the heavy lifting.

Phish :: 12.03 :: MSG by Perrucci
"The Horse" > "Silent in the Morning" is hardly a bathroom break, but offered a slight respite before the cherry on the sundae, set closer "You Enjoy Myself." Another outstanding version, "YEM" capped off the main portion of a truly special three-night return to MSG. It was so funky and hot that it was like a broken steam pipe, offering a scorching blast of Phish right down your insides. All in all, a perfect way to end the run.

Not one to forget how they got here or what they've been doing lately, the encore was the second ever reading of "Shine a Light" from the Halloween album, Exile on Main Street. No, Sharon Jones didn't show up, but all we needed was the phab phour. Isn't that all we ever needed? As this extremely poignant tune suggests, "Make every song you sing your favorite tune."

Whether you're a cynic, a critic, a fluffer, or somewhere in between, there is simply no denying the message that Phish 3.0 is sending: We have gas left in the tank, so let's continue to enjoy this ride together – in the moment. MSG has seen some serious Phishtory over the years, and '09 did nothing but add to that tale.

Phish :: 12.04.09 :: Madison Square Garden :: New York, NY
Set I: Heavy Things, Possum, Wilson, Kill Devil Falls, Glide, 46 Days, Bouncing Around The Room, Reba, Dinner and a Movie, Guyute, Maze, First Tube
Set II: Scents And Subtle Sounds, Rock & Roll > Seven Below > Twist, Mike's Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, You Enjoy Myself
E: Shine A Light

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Phish conclude their current tour tonight (12/05) at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, VA; complete tour dates available here.

You can keep up with all things Phish, including live Tweets and setlists, at

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[Published on: 12/5/09]

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