Friday, January 7, 2011

Top 10 Things We Learned at MSG

Just when I thought I was done for the week my friend Michelle just sent me a great article to help sum up what actually happened last weekend up at MSG. Via Hidden Track by Luke Sacks. This is great. A little long but worth the read. 

1. The Band Still Has “It”
Some fans have felt this way for a while now. Some fans felt the band never recovered from their first hiatus. My feeling, and most fans probably felt this way, is that there have certainly been moments. And shows. And from time to time back-to-back shows. But there has not been a three-night run of this caliber (both song selection and playing) in a long long time. Like maybe Phish 1.0 long. The band confidently tore through 71 songs over the course of the stand and delivered, in my opinion, their three best start-to-finish shows of the year. If you aren’t impressed with what the band brought at MSG then you should just stop going to shows.

2. New Year’s Run Should be at MSG Every Year
I don’t give a fuck how nice the weather is in Miami. This band belongs at Madison Square Garden every year for New Year’s Eve. Something about the mix of that building, that band and New York City makes for magic. And next year the band should clean up and jam out Round Room as a proper nod. This year’s version, while very much appreciated, was one of the few tunes that showed its rust.

3. Tweezer Still Has Balls
Sometimes the timing of a song means nothing. But in the case of Tweezer, the times recently have been telling. The fantastic version on 12/30, which clocked in at 18:48, broke a string of nine consecutive Tweezers that failed to crack the 15-minute mark dating back to 6/26/10 at Merriweather. While the Atlantic City version infused with Zeppelin classics was fun, this MSG version goes deeper than anything we’ve seen lately. The band hits a peak at around 9:54 that probably would have been the highlight of any recent version. But they dive back in for a deeper segment that builds for several minutes into one of the most fluid jams of 3.0′s existence. The jam holds almost completely together till Trey starts the opening licks of Light. Longer doesn’t always mean better but in the case of this Tweezer, it says a lot.

4. Ghost is still the Big Jam Lead Dog
Many of Phish 3.0′s best “big jams” have morphed out of Ghost, including the 11/28/09 Albany monster and the Atlantic City Ghost > Spooky. The MSG Ghost was no exception as it brought multiple highs and some of Mike Gordon’s best work of the entire run. The peak at the end is maybe the best of 2010 and this version would definitely qualify as a “Butter Jam.” It’s a must listen.

5. The Band Still Gets a Kick out of the Meatstick
They basically themed their 1999 summer tour around this song and their word record attempt and it’s inclusion as part of the New Year’s gag secures its spot as a band favorite for the ages. As by now you have seen, it was basically hundreds of worldly performers singing and dancing to Meatstick in dozens of languages for 20 minutes while the band rode across the arena in a giant stick of meat – the famous hot dog. They always seem amused when they fool the crowd but the band members seemed especially proud of their antics this year.

6. A Show on New Year’s Day Works
After two scorching nights and for most people, parties that raged on into the early mornings, it was a bit of a tougher call to rev up the engines for a show on New Year’s Day. But from the opening notes of My Soul to the final thump of Frankenstein, the band treated the crowd to an epic show. The second set, which included a much tighter Crosseyed & Painless than we’ve seen and a hose-level Simple, was among the best of the run. The only slight disappointment was nothing special to mark the 1/1/11 date. Predictions ranging from U2′s One to Metallica’s One to the Grateful Dead’s The Eleven were all shoved aside for a fantastic but numerically absent setlist.

7. First Tube and MSG are a Perfect Match
This pairing came together for the first time on 12/4/09 when it closed the first set and the room just exploded. This year First Tube kicked complete ass as the encore to an already glorious New Year’s Eve show. Something about the song’s looping, sweeping feel and the way Kuroda works the lights in that building makes for a perfect match.

8. Walk Away was Secretly the Song of the Year
This is more of a year-long observation than specifically being about the 1/1/11 version. But the four versions of this song played in 2010 – 6/17 in Hartford, 8/10 in Telluride, 8/17 at Jones Beach and 10/30 in Atlantic City are all worth listening to and all show the band in their best “classic rock” form. Page belts out the vocals to this one with more passion than just about any other tune on his list and Trey just demolishes the now-slightly-extended middle jam section.

9. They are Counting Songs
Last year in Miami the band littered its sets on 12/30 and 12/31 with songs that had not yet been played that year such as Soul Shakedown Party, Tela, Jesus Just Left Chicago, Corinna, Gone, Lifeboy, Demand and Swept Away > Steep and NO2 in order to top their highest total for different songs played in a year with 247. This year it was Burn That Bridge, Weigh, Beauty of My Dreams, Round Room and Grind seeing their first love of the year during the final three shows to give the band a new record of 250 songs played in 2010. It’s good to know the band is paying attention to the “bustout factor” and trying to work some of their unplayed songs into the end of the year celebrations.

10. Fans Know the Words
It used to just be a few lines in a few tunes – The Wilson intro, “…and we love to take a bath” But these days, fans are singing along louder and prouder than I ever thought I’d see at a Phish show. I’m not necessarily complaining but I can’t say I really want the guy next to me screaming HAAAAAA-HAAAALLEY’S COMET directly into my ear. So tread easy show crooners. Remember none of us paid $60 to hear anyone sing poorly except Fishman.

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