Phish Saves the Best for Last During New Years Run at MSG

PhishNYE15_DaveDeCrescente-20And then there was one. One last night of Phish, their last show in the U.S. until June or July, one last night to get down and dance with 20,000 of your best friends in the World’s Most Famous Arena. Bringing the run to a close meant following up from January 1, a disjointed night that was tame compared to the two juggernauts that preceded. Phish picked up on January 2 where the “Blaze On” > “Carini” > “David Bowie” left off in the early morning of January 1.

When I got into MSG around 8:15 P.M., I heard the opening notes to “AC/DC Bag,” and it seemed like the classic opener had returned to blast us off into the night, but having wrapped things up at the PhanArt show in the hour prior, I missed the Chilling Thrilling Sounds of “Your Pet Cat,” which does the same trick as “Bag” but with a more recent incarnation of adrenaline pumping funk. All the same, walking in for “Bag” and the trio of early 90’s tunes followed – “NICU,” “It’s Ice,” and “Horn,” felt like the show was on track for classic MSG run status.

The gap between halves of the set was bridged by a fluid “Divided Sky,” but it was the “Axilla” that followed that questioned the structural integrity of the Garden, as the crowd jumped up and down, expelling the pent up energy that “Sky” tends to bottle, and shaking the arena throughout the song. “Maze” kept the energy high as Page tore up the organ and had Trey watching intently and parroting off the Chairman of the Boards.

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With Fishman gently brushing his drums, a balancing “Train Song” arose, bringing tears to the eyes of those chasing the soft Billy Breathes tune, a rarity these days, but a beautiful one at that. Julius reinvigorated the crowd to close the set, one that started strong and finished out the same. Fans then awaited the final of nine sets that Phish would play this run, ventured around the concourse one last time and saw friends they may not see until Summer Tour or beyond, or perhaps resting their legs and reflecting on a crazy, music-filled weekend in the Mecca of music.

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As the lights dropped and Trey softly played the opening notes to “Tweezer”, the second set jam vehicle of legend, the audience exulted. The jam slowly built and never let up, and had some back and forth between Trey and Page for a bit, but the final two minutes of Tweezer really shone in an accelerated “What’s the Use?” jam that brought the 22 minute tour de force to a close before pouring into “Sand.” Even still, after “Tweezer”, there was no let up on this “Sand,” which garnered cheers from the “Flowing through the hourglass” line, now forever intwined with the ‘Hourglass Jam’ that rang in 2016 two nights prior.

“Limb by Limb” and “Suzy Greenberg” were well placed between two heavy duty bookends to the set – “Limb” played safe and standard, while “Suzy” brought MVP Page back to slather some mustard on the piano, New York deli style. While “Harry Hood” was perfectly dropped out of “Suzy,” it felt as if it was cut short by Trey, just before an even more exploratory jam was about to begin. “You Enjoy Myself” capped the set in the way no other song can, carried out with a funk jam and Trey hopping on drums for a bit before closing out with a trippy vocal jam.

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Returning to the stage, the buzz was centered on “Fluffhead,” which hadn’t been played since August 2014. What feels like years of waiting will feel a little longer as Phish opted for a combo of “The Lizards” and “Tweezer Reprise,” one that constitutes a single “Fluffhead,” which is one part rarity (The Lizards) and one part energy builder with a huge payoff (Tweezer Reprise). There were no complaints with this set, let alone the entire show. While January 2, 2016 marked the best show of the run, with the Mayan Riviera shows coming up in a week, the bar for the year is set high with this final performance from the New Years run.

PhishNYE15_DaveDeCrescente-19Setlist via Phish.net

Set 1: Your Pet Cat, AC/DC Bag > NICU, It’s Ice > Horn > Divided Sky, Axilla >Maze, Train Song > Julius

Set 2: Tweezer > Sand > Limb By Limb > Suzy Greenberg > Harry Hood > You Enjoy Myself[1]

Encore: The Lizards, Tweezer Reprise

[1] Trey briefly joined Fish on drums.