Reviews > Shows
Phish on NYD at MSG
It is hard to believe they have only played “Crosseyed and Painless” in concert 16 times, and that is probably because it has been such an important part of some pretty monumental shows that it has the feel of a song that’s been played a lot more since its 1996 debut. So it was a surprise second set opener and while it didn’t contain the improvisational fireworks of some of the more legendary versions of years gone by, it did feature some incendiary peaks before landing in an ambient segue into “Twist.”
Everything that is excellent and yet mildly frustrating about the current iteration of Phish could be neatly summed up in this “Twist.” The middle section was very well played, Anastasio and Mike Gordon both delivering delicate runs while Page McConnell layered bulbous chords from the fender Rhodes underneath. There were a couple of times where it looked like they might un-tether themselves from the song’s structure and head out into the unknown but they seem very hesitant these days to do that for any length of time and those moments proved to be fleeting as they never fully cut the cord. There is still nothing like seeing a Phish concert but I would be lying if I didn’t miss getting lost in long stretch of improvisational brilliance and I wonder sometimes why the band doesn’t feel the same way.
But that, as they say, was then and this is now and it all turned out just fine as they launched into the meat of the second set: “Simple”, “Sneaking Sally Thru the Alley” and “Makisupa Policeman.” I urge you to listen to this “Simple” as no combination of words I could write could do justice to the intricate elegance of its outro jam and improvised coda attached to it. If “Twist” summed up the paradox of this era of Phish than “Sneaking Sally” served to highlight the fresh perspective that the maturing band has brought to this portion of its career. The inclusion of the vocal jam, with Anastasio scat singing along, has breathed new life into the Robert Palmer cover. “Makisupa Policeman” was another pleasant surprise, the band delving deep into the ambient territory that they pull off so well yet employ so sparingly. “David Bowie” is probably the most versatile of all of the old Phish jam vehicles in that it can work just about anywhere in a setlist and be effective. The same could said of “Fee” which nonetheless is perfect for the encore slot. The same holds true for “Frankenstein,” where I never get tire of seeing Page McConnell ham it up for a crowd vis-a-vis his keytar antics.
On the first night of Festival 8, I ran into my dear friend Doug Nyman, with whom I saw Phish the first time they played Madison Square Garden and many times after that. “You know I feel weird saying this,” I explained, “I mean, I am looking forward to all this but really, I am really, really looking forward to MSG.” Doug smiled a knowing smile, “Me too.” There is one truism that will remain for the rest of Phish’s career, no matter what date it happens to fall on: There is nothing like a Phish show at MSG.
Set I: My Soul, Tube > Runaway Jim > Foam, Guelah Papyrus > The Divided Sky, Round Room* > Walk Away > Gotta Jibboo > Reba^, Walls of the Cave
Set II: Crosseyed and Painless > Twist** > Simple, Sneakin’ Sally through the Alley > Makisupa Policeman^^ > David Bowie
Enc: Fee***, Frankenstein^^^
Notes: *Last time played 7/22/03 ^No whistling **Manteca quotes from Trey ^^“I went home late last night after doing the New Year’s stunt, I laid back on my couch and rolled myself a blunt” lyrics. “Kick drum solo.” ***Trey sang verses through megaphone ^^^Page on keytar
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