Phish Opens MSG New Year’s Run In NYC – Setlist & The Skinny

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Phish kicked off a four-show New Year’s Run at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Wednesday night. The performance marked the band’s 32nd show at the iconic venue. MSG has hosted all of the group’s New Year’s Eve runs since 2010 with the exception of last year’s four-night stand at American Airlines Arena in Miami. The foursome made their MSG debut on this date in 1994. 2015 has been a light year for Phish as they toured just once before this run, a 25-show Summer Tour.

Over the course of Phish history a handful of New Year’s Runs have started with a warmup show as the band shakes off the rust and settles into a groove. Despite a layoff of well over three months, the quartet didn’t show any signs of rust on Wednesday night and came out strong to begin the run. A high-energy first set gave way to a seamless, jam-heavy second set that stands among the classics. It’s as if Phish picked up where they left off this past summer.

“Sample In A Jar” started the New Year’s Run just as it did in 2009 and 2010. Guitarist Trey Anastasio showed off some of the beefy tones he added to his rig this past summer on “Free,” while “Simple” contained beautiful interplay between Trey and keyboardist Page McConnell . “Simple” faded into “Back On The Train” before a double dose of Phish’s latest studio album, Fuego, came with “Waiting All Night” and “555.” As usual, “Roggae” featured a powerful climax. The quartet then gave fans a taste of Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House in the form of rocker “The Dogs.” A high-octane set had a high-octane end thanks to a barn-burning “46 Days.”

The first set was fine appetizer, but the second set was a grand main course. “Chalk Dust Torture” has come into its own as a jam song in recent years. The trend continued on Wednesday with the band quickly blowing through the progression to get to the improv. “Chalk Dust” spanned over 20 minutes with little noodling involved. Phish was focused as they explored multiple soundscapes. Trey and Page exchanged harmonic ideas, but bassist Mike Gordon and drummer Jon Fishman gave the instant classic “Chalk Dust” its heart. Some of the catchy and impressive melodies the four-piece laid down within “Chalk Dust” sounded almost pre-developed, but odds are it was pure improv. Eventually the jam petered out and “Ghost” began eliciting a roar from the crowd.

Once again, the band sounded focused as they used “Ghost” to introduce “Can’t Always Listen.” The new original was a cross between ZZ Top and Jimmy Buffett with Phishy lyrics about staying true to oneself despite what others may say. It was easy to think after “Can’t Always Listen” started that it came in lieu of a “Ghost” jam, yet after finishing the debut Phish went right back to the “Ghost” jam. The foursome didn’t do much with the end of “Ghost,” but kudos go out for finding such an inventive way to unveil a new song. “Can’t Always Listen” coming in the middle of “Ghost” displays what the tune means to the band in the same way putting a new sitcom on after Cheers in the ’80s displays what that show meant to NBC. “Waves” gave Phish another chance to jam and the ambient improv towards the end was strong.

The dream setlist of the second set continued with a standout “Bathtub Gin.” Phish connected on a blissed out chord progression they rode to glory to the delight of the capacity crowd. Anastasio and McConnell pushed each other to great heights, while Gordon threw in the occasional synth’d out, sustained bass note which garnered cheers. “Mike’s Song” came next and featured a powerful climax, yet no “second jam.” Setlist staple “Bouncing Around The Room” emerged out of “Mike’s” and gave way to the expected “Weekapaug Groove.” Yet what was unexpected was the curveball Phish threw out by seguing into and out of beloved Siket Disc instrumental “What’s The Use?” The second set was already a winner before it ended with all mighty “Weekapaug” > “What’s The Use?” > “Weekapaug” sequence. A “Character Zero” encore then gave fans and band one more chance to get their ya yas out.

Phish returns to Madison Square Garden for a three-set New Year’s Eve show on Thursday night.

The Skinny

The Setlist

The Venue

Madison Square Garden [See upcoming shows]

31 shows — 12/30/1994, 12/30/1995, 12/31/1995, 10/21/1996, 10/22/1996, 12/29/1997, 12/30/1997, 12/31/1997, 12/28/1998, 12/29/1998, 12/30/1998, 12/31/1998, 12/31/2002, 12/02/2009, 12/03/2009, 12/04/2009, 12/30/2010, 12/31/2010, 01/01/2011, 12/28/2011, 12/29/2011, 12/30/2011, 12/31/2011, 12/28/2012, 12/29/2012, 12/30/2012, 12/31/2012, 12/28/2013, 12/29/2013, 12/30/2013, 12/31/2013

The Music

9 songs / 8:09 pm to 9:14 pm (65 minutes)

10 songs / 9:48 pm to 11:26 pm (98 minutes)

1999

4.3 [Gap chart]

Can't Always Listen (Original)

N/A

Back on the Train - 15 shows (LTP - 08/15/2015)

Chalk Dust Torture (22:36)

The Dogs (3:35)

Junta - 0, Lawn Boy - 2, A Picture of Nectar - 1, Rift - 0, Hoist - 1, Billy Breathes - 2, The Story of the Ghost - 2, Farmhouse - 1, Round Room - 2, Undermind - 0, Joy - 0, Fuego - 2, Misc. - 6, Covers - 0

The Rest

48°F and Cloudy at showtime

KOA #3, aka Ocedoc

Photos by Paul Citone

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