Triumphant Return: Phish Begins New Year’s Run At Madison Square Garden – Recap, Setlist & The Skinny
The announcement for Phish’s New Year’s Run at Madison Square Garden billed the four shows as “the wait is over” and the band’s “triumphant return” to the famed New York City arena. While seemingly a sarcastic response to the landmark Baker’s Dozen residency of 13 shows held at MSG last July and August, fans in NYC and webcasting at home were nonetheless waiting in high expectation for Phish’s return to the site of their career triumph just a few months prior.
The 14th Phish show at MSG of 2017 was the first not tied to a donut flavor. The opening rendition of “AC/DC Bag” also made it the first Phish show at the venue this year to feature a repeated song. Just like the second set at The Garden back on July 23, the concise “Bag” opener was followed by “Wolfman’s Brother” and saw keyboardist Page McConnell and bassist Mike Gordon quickly settle into a bubbly groove. Guitarist Trey Anastasio came forward as the “Wolfman’s” jam picked up momentum and reached a high energy conclusion. Drummer Jon Fishman then kicked off the round-robin “Roggae” vocals as each member took a turn on a verse before diving into the song’s mellowing outro that featured some extra points of emphasis from Mike.
MSG turned into a disco during the ensuing “Tube.” Fans of the beloved “Tube” jam were treated to several standout minutes of funk-infused improvisation and the audience gave a cheer of approval when the band steered back to the song’s ending. The old mid-tempo standby “Bouncing Around The Room” kept the set progressing. The bounciness spilled over into the locomotive rhythm of “Back On The Train” which took a few emphatic turns as Trey ripped one riff after another for his mates to cooly respond to.
The first song of the set to have been debuted this millenium, “Your Pet Cat” had Page showing off his array of keyboards and synths while sending sampled cat screams around the arena. Sticking to their recent repertoire, Mike led a performance of the Big Boat track “Waking Up Dead” before the band launched into “Theme From The Bottom.” Trey powered the group through the “Theme,” which served as a first set closer for just the second time and first since 1999.
Trey triggered the call-and-response opening of “Wilson” to start off set two, giving The Garden a fierce jolt out setbreak. The Gamehendge favorite ushered in “No Men In No Man’s Land” whose jam started off with Page taking synth-led charge as Mike positioned himself near Fish and the rhythm section established a foundation for the improvisation to develop. Accompanied by lighting director Chris Kuroda dazzling every corner of The Garden with his visual stimuli, several impressive passages made up the expansive 24-minute “NMINML” jam, each seemingly getting darker and more ambient until Trey pulled the quartet toward a screaming return to a few runs through the song’s main lyrics.
The foursome slickly slid into “Twist” and soon were back to outstanding group improvisation as they laid the groundwork for a sharply focused sequence propelled by its own melodic inertia. The excellent “Twist” improv was cut off by a hard segue into “Everything’s Right” that came about after Trey failed to properly convey the transition to Fish. The recently debuted uplifting rocker gave way to a funky portion reminiscent of “The Moma Dance” (or even its predecessor “Black-Eyed Katy).
Trey was able to properly coax Fish to take the band into the evening’s first cover, the instrumental head-bobber “2001,” and the dance party soundtrack was back in full effect. A well-received “Harry Hood” then blanketed the New York City audience with a blissful close to the second set. The encore slot was reserved for “The Wedge” for the first time since 1995 and the peppy rocker was paired with the sublime “Slave To The Traffic Light.” The classic tune brought an end one more memorable night at MSG for the members of Phish and their fans in 2017.
The NYE MSG run continues on Friday night. A webcast is available via LivePhish.com.
Madison Square Garden [See upcoming shows]
52 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, 12/30/2015, 12/31/2015, 01/01/2016, 01/02/2016, 12/28/2016, 12/29/2016, 12/30/2016, 12/31/2016, 07/21/2017, 07/22/2017, 07/23/2017, 07/25/2017, 07/26/2017, 07/28/2017, 07/29/2017, 07/30/2017, 08/01/2017, 08/02/2017, 08/04/2017, 08/05/2017, 08/06/2017
9 songs / 8:14 pm to 9:30 pm (76 minutes)
8 songs / 10:03 pm to 11:44 pm (101 minutes)
17 songs / 16 originals / 1 cover
5.24 [Gap chart]
AC/DC Bag, Your Pet Cat, Twist - 14 Show Gap (LTP - 7/23/2017)
No Men In No Man's Land - 24:10
Bouncing Around the Room - 3:45
Junta - 1, Lawn Boy - 1, Rift - 1, Hoist - 1, Billy Breathes - 1, The Story of the Ghost - 1, Farmhouse - 2, Big Boat - 2, Misc. - 6, Covers - 1
16° F and Clear at Showtime