After taking most of the year off from Phish with the exception of 6/7/11 in Mansfield, MA, I was heading to the Garden with to say the least some skepticism. As of late I had not been too impressed with the band’s playing, I did not feel like they were reaching their potential. This feeling was heightened especially due to knowing what they are capable of from years of listening. With my doubts I went to the streets with my finger in the air hoping to find a ticket to this sold-out show. Being the first night of their sold out New Year’s run (not to mention in New York City), I was not sure what the odds of finding a ticket would be. Much to my surprise though, a local who was unfamiliar with the band stopped me in Penn Station and handed me two tickets. He said, “I found these on the ground walking off the train, you look like you could use them.” With a smile, a hug and many, many thanks we parted ways and I found a friend who I came with who was also in need of a ticket. Little did I know then that this would not be the only surprise that was in store for this evening.
Entering the show I was directed to the seats we were miraculously graced with, first row up from the floor, dead center! What a night this was shaping up to be. In my experiences there has always been something magical when seeing a show at Madison Square Garden, especially when it’s a packed house. Its as if the spirit of all the great players and performances over the years radiates from the stage creating an energy that is just indescribable. The crowd was feeling it, I was feeling it, and everyone was ready for the lights to drop and the boys to take the stage.
When the moment finally arrived, I was thrilled as they busted into the opening chords of “Free.” One of my favorite songs lyrically by Phish, it was a great start to quiet the reluctance I had prior to the show. They then shifted into the first “Glide” since the last time I saw them play the Garden in 2009. The first set also boasted two covers, the Talking Heads “Cities”(fitting seeing as we were in the greatest one) and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “The Ballad of Curtis Loew.” The latter is one of my all time favorites; as Skynyrd’s holds a special place in my heart and they were also my first ever concert years ago. The set came to a close with “Bathtub Gin” which included a heavy bass driven jam.
The 2nd set only continued the pace laid down in the 1st, opening up with another favorite of mine (though this one for the jam), “Birds of a Feather.” The set rolled on and I continued to be mesmerized by the playing displayed by Gordon this evening. From “Tweezer” to “Harry Hood,” it was clear he was on top of his game tonight. Trey was weaving in and out of Mike’s lead and the sound was magnificent. The set closed with “Bug” and I was completely dismayed. This was not the band I had been disappointed with all year in the slightest. They returned to the stage and went from “Tube” into the bluegrassy “Rocky Top” and then the bass lines erupted again dropping like bombs into “Tweezer Reprise.” The place was rocking and ready for three more nights! In other news I’m back on the Phish train ready for 2012!
Night 1: Madison Square Garden; New York, NY
Ballad Of Curtis Loew
Sample in a Jar
Kill Devil Falls
II: Birds of a Feather
My Friend, My Friend
Rock and Roll
Bouncing Around the Room