Phish Opens April 2022 Run At Madison Square Garden: Setlist, Recap & The Skinny

The second set featured must-hear jams within "Down With Disease," "Twist" and "Reba."

By Scott Bernstein Apr 21, 2022 5:58 am PDT

Phish finally returned to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday to start a series of four makeup New Year’s Eve run concerts that were originally slated for December 29, 2021 through January 1, 2022. The band postponed the sold-out shows due to a spike in COVID-19 cases stemming from the Omicron variant. A bit of rust was evident on Wednesday, however the evening’s high points — including a transcendent +20-minute “Down With Disease” — were far above the level typically seen from Phish on the first night of a run after a lengthy break from the stage.

Wednesday’s concert marked the quartet’s 65th performance at the “World’s Greatest Arena” dating back to their MSG debut on December 30, 1994. Madison Square Garden has hosted the band more than any other venue. The previous Phish gig at MSG took place way back on December 31, 2019, when guitarist Trey Anastasio was saved on New Year's Eve by the “Rescue Squad” following the malfunction of a platform during the evening’s third and final set.

The energy in the room reached a fevered pitch as the clock struck 8 p.m. and the band was about to take the stage. Huge cheers greeted the “Carini” opener. Phish wasted little time breaking through the song’s typical structure for the first Type II excursion of the run. The four-piece moved from an evil soundscape to a blissful jam space in a minor-to-major key modulation that has been a trademark of the band’s jamming and was repeated a number of times on Wednesday night. The “Carini” approached the 20-minute mark, giving light designer Chris Kuroda ample time to show off his massive rig, complete with moving trusses assembled in new shapes and patterns. Anastasio and keyboardist Page McConnell took turns leading a “Carini” jam that was filled with impressive interplay between the pair while the rhythm section of drummer Jon Fishman and bassist Mike Gordon anchored the improv with a steady beat.

The crowd responded to every turn made within “Carini” and was attentive throughout the evening for the most part. A blazing “Possum” followed along with an extended “The Moma Dance” featuring “Bug” teases before Phish took it down a notch with the contemplative “Leaves” and introspective “Strange Design.” The latter was last played on December 7, 2019 — a 50-show gap — and hadn’t seen action at MSG since December 31, 2002. By the time Page sang “Strange Design” all four members of the band had taken a turn singing lead.

While Wednesday’s “Carini” was strong and long, the improvisational highlight of the set was a wild “Stash.” Phish toyed with the tempo throughout a jam filled with tension and release. The band landed on an anthemic progression that brought to mind Chicago’s “25 Or 6 To 4” they rode to glory to bring the outstanding “Stash” exploration to a close. Coming into the night, many fans wondered if Phish would acknowledge the stoner holiday of 4/20. The closest they came was the straight-forward “Blaze On” that capped the first set.

Read on after The Skinny for the rest of the recap and more.

The Skinny

The Setlist

The Venue

Madison Square Garden [See upcoming shows]

20,789

64 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, 1/01/2011, 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, 1/01/2016, 12/30/2015, 12/31/2015, 1/02/2016, 12/28/2016, 12/29/2016, 12/30/2016, 12/31/2016, 7/21/2017, 7/22/2017, 7/23/2017, 7/25/2017, 7/26/2017, 7/28/2017, 7/29/2017, 7/30/2017, 8/01/2017, 8/02/2017, 8/04/2017, 8/05/2017, 8/06/2017, 12/28/2017, 12/29/2017, 12/30/2017, 12/31/2017, 12/28/2018, 12/29/2018, 12/30/2018, 12/31/2018, 12/28/2019, 12/29/2019, 12/30/2019, 12/31/2019

The Music

7 songs / 8:06 pm to 9:18 pm (72 minutes)

9 songs / 9:59 pm to 11:40 pm (101 minutes)

16 songs
16 originals / 0 covers

2000

10.25 [Gap chart]

None

All

Strange Design LTP 12/07/2019 (50 Show Gap)

Down With Disease 22:48

Strange Design 3:10

Lawn Boy - 1, A Picture of Nectar - 1, Hoist - 1, The Story of the Ghost - 1, Farmhouse - 1, Big Boat - 1, Sigma Oasis - 2, Sci-Fi Soldier - 1, Misc. - 7

The Rest

58° Sunny

Koa 1

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More Skinny

Nothing about a Phish show at Madison Square Garden in April is normal, so it made the sense the second set was an unusual affair. After a particularly long setbreak and first set in which the band played with more fluidity than usually found the first night of a run, last night’s closing stanza was a roller coaster featuring a mix of recent material and old-school favorites. Up first was “Sigma Oasis” with its lyric about “take off your mask.” For the record, most concertgoers at The Garden went sans masks last night.

“Sigma Oasis” gave way to the aforementioned “Down With Disease.” Phish seemed to have trouble locking in on the composed section, a trend that would pop up a few times during the set. Anastasio appeared annoyed at one point and put his frustrations into kicking a large balloon that kept coming his way. Once that balloon was kicked, the guitarist took his playing up several notches and reeled off a jaw-dropping solo. Trey has really dialed in his tone. One minute he’d dive into Santana-esque riffage and the next he’d unleash masterful blues-rock shredding ala Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, all while infused with his own original style. McConnell also shined on a “Disease” that went beyond the lauded 20-minute mark to the delight of the capacity crowd. Page and Trey traded licks at the peak of the instant classic jam before one final burst of fretboard fireworks from Anastasio led to the conclusion of “Down With Disease.” Though the rare finish to a second set “Disease” was appreciated, it did seem a bit forced and was ragged.

Last night’s second set rolled on with the band’s third take on Sci-Fi Soldier funk workout “The Howling.” The song is the lone tune from the suite debuted by Phish as part of their latest musical costume played since Halloween besides “Clear Your Mind” and is a welcome addition to the repertoire. The quartet vamped on the main theme before pulling off a slick segue into “Twist.” Phish built the filthy “Twist” jam to a mighty peak and then nailed the gorgeous gorgeous ballad “Mountains In The Mist.” Yet, the composed sections of the “Reba” that followed were rough.

“Reba” recently placed second in Wook+’s fourth annual Phish bracket and showed why during its euphoric jam section. Any flubs seemed forgotten about when the band connected on the blissful two-chord improv. Anastasio looked back to Fish as if to trigger the end of the jam but the drummer was looking elsewhere, giving the guitarist one more incredibly intense run at the progression. Phish went on to end the set with Ghosts Of The Forest standout “Drift While You’re Sleeping.”

The quartet paired oldies “Gumbo” and “Slave To The Traffic Light” as the encore for the first night of the run. The latter was similar to “Reba” and the second set in general with a few botches in the composed section and a delightful jam. Phish continues the rescheduled New Year’s Eve run at Madison Square Garden tonight. Webcasts are available for purchase via LivePhish.com.

Phil Clarkin’s Photos

Down With Disease


00:00:00
Richard Wolf (See 10 videos)
Phish (See 3,879 videos)

Reba


00:00:00
Richard Wolf (See 10 videos)
Phish (See 3,879 videos)

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