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Well like the seasons change, it’s the end of the year and that can only mean one thing, Phish is closing it down at Madison Square Garden. Last night they began their run with a great performance with plenty of rarities, some great jamming, and a crowd that was ready for anything the band was willing to throw their way.
The night started off with one of the brand new songs they debuted on Halloween, when they played a set as Kasvot Växt, with “We Are Come to Outlive Our Brains”. The crowd roared in approval and sang-a-long as the band took the song slightly outside of the confines from when it was debuted. A quick one-two punch of “Martian Monster” and “Axilla I” got the floor rocking like so few bands can make MSG do. This would be the theme of the night as the building was swaying more often than not. “Free” and “The Wedge” followed with some solid rocking Type I jamming, staying inside of the song melodically but letting loose.
The not often played “Meat” led right into “Ghost” and saw the first deep playing of the evening. There were great breakdowns in both songs that completely devolved the song into nothing before bringing it all back together. Phish showed the four headed monster being in perfect sync during both songs. The jam that was happening in “Ghost” had blissful peak after blissful peak that led into a perfect transition to “Sparkle”. Chris Kuroda, the lighting director and sometimes referred to as the fifth member of the band, showed off all of his skills during “Sparkle”. The man controls lights in a room like no one else in the business and had the crowd in a frenzy.
Following the craziness it was time to take a breath with the MSG debut of the rarity “If I Could” off of Hoist. The band nailed the song with Page McConnell getting a lengthy piano solo followed by some great soars guitar by Trey Anastasio. The first set closed out with rocking versions of live staples “Maze” and “Wall of the Cave”. During set break every roamed around MSG seeing friends they haven’t seen in months and keeping the holiday spirit alive with plenty of hugs and laughter.
“Set Your Soul Free” kicked off set two and didn’t take long at all to get to the jamming. Right out of the gate we were in Type II territory, completely breaking away from the song and going in so many directions over the 17 minutes of this version. The band played a sort of hand-off to the next person throughout the jam with no one member completely taking over for too long. Kuroda during one of the peaks of the jam bathed the venue in a bright blue light, reminiscent of the blue light above Astoria the night before when a transformer blew up.
Jon Fishman led the transition that started the band going into a beautiful played “Swept Away” “Steep” double combo. There wasn’t much jamming in the two songs as they played fairly straight forward, but there was no complaining being done by the sold out crowd for these two rarely played songs. Following a small conference on stage, the band launched into a second song from this past Halloween in “The Final Hurrah”. The song saw Trey and Page take over the soloing while Fishman and Mike Gordon held down the song’s low end. They stayed inside the confines of the song, but took it fairly deep before returning to the chorus to close it out and go directly into “Fuego” that had some of the wildest rocking peaks of the evening.
It was time for a breather and Trey launched the band into the ballad “Shade” before Page signaled “Bathtub Gin” that had Trey egging him in during his solos. Always a crowd favorite, the band rocked the song before almost sounding like they were going to go into a completely different song, but then brought it back around to it’s usual ending. A rocking “Possum” closed the set before the double encore of “Bouncing Around the Room” and a great take on “Slave to the Traffic Light” that saw some great full band jamming. With night one of four done, the band quietly waved to the fans and left the arena.