Monday, December 30, 2013

Phish 12/29 Review: Stepping Up Their Game

After a scattered first night, which found the band struggling to find setlist slots for their new Wingsuit tunes, Phish turned in a much more cohesive second show at the Garden.  "The Moma Dance" kicked things off, and the middle-aged woman next to me began the mommy dance.  Phish never got too funky with it, taking a laid-back approach that they extended well into the set.  "Roggae" had its moments, and the band found the perfect spot for possible radio single "The Line," tucked snugly between "Sparkle" and "Stash."  The latter served as the framework for the first true jam of the night, a major-key journey signaled by a CK5 projection behind the stage that resembled maybe snow, maybe not, as my brother swore it looked like "maggots and bacteria."  The Gordon-led "555" followed nicely.  Trey's guitar and Page's organ both got a little too shrill by the end of the improvised section, but the transition back into the vocal was on point.  Then they busted out the dankest funk since the previous night's "Wolfman" with "It's Ice."  Gordon made meatballs while McConnell poured on the clavinet sauce.  With the arena pre-heated, it was time for the cooks to serve up some steaming "Gumbo."  Page simmered on the organ for a bit, but he really brought things to a boil once he returned to the clav.  Sous-chef Gordon snuck in some well-timed notes, but he dropped back and let Page continue his ride, all the way to the final farty flourish: a single staccato note to end the song with a laugh.  Closer "Walls of the Cave" suffered from a little too much guitar grandiosity from Anastasio, but it wasn't a total misfire.

Set two began with a tiny bit of ambient experimentation.  Trey 
mumbled something incoherent into the mic, and then Gordon's flange bass triggered "Down with Disease."  The band oozed confidence on the lyric start to the song, and then it came time for the jam.  Last year's 12/30 "DWD" was my favorite performance of the entire year from any band, so my hopes were probably too high.  Though it was never dull, it jumped around a little too much, Trey steering it from a gentle guitar melody to crunchy riff rock to an uptempo blues.  Emerging on the other side, Anastasio finished out the chorus center stage, and then charged into "Carini."  Unlike the sinister cave creature they uncovered last year, this version let in more light, sonically represented by simultaneous death ray whooshes by all members.  The spaceflight continued, and then Page let loose some keyboard noises that sounded like the sweetest dial-up modem.  It was enough to cement his status as the night's MVP.  "Waves" flowed into a "Twist" that at times recalled Bill Withers' "Use Me."  They closed out the set with well-executed, well-lit renditions of "Golgi Apparatus" and "David Bowie."  As they came forward to take a bow, someone in the crowd threw a bouquet of roses at Trey.  He tossed the flowers to Fish, who held them for a photo op before flinging them over the drums to Mike.  Sadly, Mike's cross-stage pass to Page went wild, and landed on top of the piano.
When they emerged for the encore, Page was holding the bouquet.  Hell, he earned it.  "Possum" was a pleasant last dance, albeit a tad overlong.  "Thanks, everybody.  We'll see you tomorrow night," offered Trey.  Tonight's show is Phish's 30th at MSG, in their 30th year, so expectations are colossal.  Should they continue on this trajectory, though, there's going to be an arena's worth of satisfied Phans pouring out of MSG at 11:40.


The Moma Dance > Rift / Roggae / Sparkle / The Line / Stash / 555 / It's Ice / Gumbo / Walls of the Cave

Jam / Down with Disease > Carini / Waves > Twist / Golgi Apparatus / David Bowie


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