Ahhh‚ Phish Fall tour in the Northeast... things are once again balanced in the Force. After a slaying jaunt from Albany to Portland the week prior‚ everyone heading to Manhattan for the 3 night stand at MSG had no qualms as to whether their beloved band of yesteryear had truly returned to form. All doubts cast aside‚ the Phish is on fire right now kiddies. The first night‚ Wednesday‚ was a juxtaposition of familiar set list highs and lows: A killer mid-second set "Slave to the Traffic Light>Tweezer" combo was followed by a one-two wet noodle slap of "Joy" and "Sparkle." "Peaches en Regalia" made a somewhat messy‚ yet still triumphant return after a decade-long absence‚ but all-in-all it still felt like a warm-up for the New York run.
Thursday night found the band embracing the dirty goo in that awesome sense that makes your ears feel like they're getting head. "Punch You in the Eye‚" "Axilla‚" and "Julius" all ripped the first set to shreds‚ but the true get down on the low-down came in the second set "Cities>Free‚" and "2001>David Bowie." The unexpectedly relaxed Garden security team had no problems in letting the building turn into an all-out 25‚000 person dance party. The boundaries between seats and aisles blurred into a massive sweat-slam of collective human bliss‚ and my crew wondered whether the band or ourselves would be able to realign for the 3rd night.
It now being Friday night‚ all the $20 tickets in the lot from the first two nights were a distant memory‚ and at 7:45 there were more than enough folks on 7th Avenue with that "Oh‚ fuck" look in their eyes. While the Friday night crowd was perhaps more boisterous and excited than the first two nights‚ they were also more apt to talking and taking a bathroom break during "Maze." So you know‚ there's that. "Heavy Things" opened the first set‚ and while not being the ideal opener‚ it is the ideal spot for the tune. Next came the power-rock trifecta of "Possum‚" "Wilson‚" "Kill Devil Falls‚" with the latter seeming to have woven its' way into my comfort zone of repeated approval. There was an overwhelmingly warm embrace of the first "Glide" since Coventry‚ and it felt a hell of a lot better than the last one. "Reba" was standard and didn't necessarily take me to the place that it's known to do‚ but the following "Dinner and a Movie" absolutely crushed. The only "Guyute" of tour held the energy it was birthed with 15 years ago‚ most likely due to its' dropping out from regular rotation. It was actually the most excited I've been to hear the song in a decade‚ and they nailed it. "Maze" was huge as it had been most of tour‚ but again was the moment when I noticed the crowd wasn't necessarily as focused on the band as they had been the past few nights. I don't usually choose a psychedelically raging guitar solo from Trey as the point in the set when I push through the dancers for another eight dollar Budweiser‚ but hey‚ we've all got our thing. First set closed with "First Tube‚" and while admittedly not one of favorites in the catalog‚ this one was enormous. The ending segment pushed far past the normal point of sonic overload‚ and the crowd let the buzz in the room linger til the house lights came up for set-break.
Second set opened with the resurrection of one of my favorites off of Undermind‚ "Scents and Subtle Sounds." I wish they would include the original intro with the song‚ but the jam still opened perfectly into the warming void it's designed for. You knew a three night stand at MSG would have to have a "Rock and Roll" come crushing in at some point‚ and this one came slamming home just as "Scents" drifted down. "Rock and Roll" went through its normal stages of explosion before the Good Lieutenant locked the band into a solid wave of speed-funk. The groove began to move seamlessly into "Seven Below" before it momentarily fell apart and "Seven Below" had to be started again. It was kind of like letting that hand touch the ice when you're landing the triple-axle: the casual fan thinks it's fine‚ while the expert laments at a lost moment of perfection. Still great though‚ anyway... "Twist" bore it's increasingly rarer head‚ and raged its shoulder-drop seductions into the perennial bread-winner of a balls-out "Mike's Song." Sweet Jesus do I love when the "Mike's" gets dirty -- when it's on spot like this one‚ it can just be one of the most beautifully evil things in all of existence. "Hydrogen" was delicate and flawless‚ but I felt like the "Weekapaug" was missing something. It feels like the band needs a new point of inspiration for where to take this song these days‚ and this one made me feel like the missing one at Festival 8 was actually a good call. Things then got a little more lackluster for a moment with "The Horse>Silent in the Morning‚" a duo that I've been saying throughout my entire Phish career has no place in a raging second set. The tables were cleared however‚ when "You Enjoy Myself" started up. During the vibration of life moment‚ which is hands down always my favorite moment in any Phish song‚ I realized that as I was foregoing the 7 hour drive to Virginia the next morning‚ and since Miami is something my wallet would internally combust at the sight of‚ this would be my last show most likely until the summer. I went hard with these fellas this year‚ and I was momentarily overwhelmed as to how that tingle in my spine has not diminished. Needless to say‚ the "Y.E.M." was incredible. I thought the "Shine a Light" encore was a perfect call. It wasn't as spiritual as during the Exile set a month and a half ago‚ but still served as an ideal exit to an amazing stretch of shows. Spring tour?