Phish Delivers Strike Three at The Garden

With two nights in the books, and raised expectations thanks to the lore of the “30th” show, Phish dealt a musical hand that would be hard to beat last night.  The first set played like an epic second set at points and saw an old favorite song get revamped.  The second set featured the Vermont rock stars in peak jaw-dropping improvisational form and was bookended with two of the more legendary songs in Phish canon.  And the encore was filled with thousands of fans singing the keyboardist’s favorite song before “Tweezer Reprise” ended the show in ragingly appropriate fashion. All this and it’s not even 2018 yet.

To the delight of many, Phish went back to its roots with a classic opening sequence of “Mike’s Song” > “I Am Hydrogen” > “Weekapaug Groove” that was once more than a regular sequence on set lists but seems to have petered out in recent years in favor of different permutations of “Mike’s Groove.”  The iconic opening guitar lick was met with a resounding roar from the crowd and the band never looked back from there. “Hydrogen” gave Lighting Director Chris Kuroda a chance to show off his mood lighting as he added a perfect visual backdrop for the moody instrumental number. No sooner had the closing notes of “Weekapaug Groove” been played before guitarist Trey Anastasio ripped into another iconic opening guitar riff – this one belonging to “Tweezer,” a first set rarity to say the least. By this time, The Garden was in full “bouncy house” mode with the ground noticeably shaking and seemingly moving along in unison with everything else.

Following a soaring jam that touched on a myriad of themes, Anastasio huddled with Jon Fishman briefly before the drummer belted out the crowd favorite “Ass Handed.”  Before long, the entire crowd, with nothing but the house lights on, was singing along in full unison, the first of two memorable sing-a-longs this evening.  As if not to stem the energy too much, a blistering “Kill Devil Falls” followed that flowed ever so effortlessly into “Bathtub Gin” which had a majestic jam attached to it, further solidifying the second set feel to this first one.  Soon after another energized reception from the crowd, bassist Mike Gordon began soloing in what turned out to be a new take on the old school number “Brother,” with this version taking a slower, more rhythmic approach.  First set closer du jour “More” then capped off a first set that already felt like an entire show’s worth of music.

Topping a first set like that would normally be difficult, but Phish attempted to do so with another epic jam vehicle, this one being a more traditionally placed “Down with Disease” second set opener.  The ensuing improv was Phish at their finest, with a jam that grew in scale and intensity before settling into “Steam.”  This newer song evoked memories of New Years’ past when the band used it as part of their “gag” and played it while elevated on risers.  “Light” kept the energy going in full force, highlighted by steady play and typical sound melodies from keyboardist Page McConnell. “Farmhouse” then delivered the second set “breather” song everyone had been waiting for before the set was bookended with another Phish staple, a breakneck speed, intense “Run Like an Antelope.”  With no encore even necessary after a performance like that, it did offer the crowd one last chance to join together in song via “Sleeping Monkey” before the expected “Tweezer Reprise” closer blew the lid off the world’s most famous arena…again.  Three special nights of music are now complete as Phish begins plans for its 17th show at Madison Square Garden in the year 2017.  What they have left in the tank is anyone’s guess.

Setlist via Phish.net

Set 1: Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Tweezer > Ass Handed, Kill Devil Falls > Bathtub Gin, Brother, More

Set 2: Down with Disease[1] -> Steam > Light > Farmhouse, Run Like an Antelope

Encore: Sleeping Monkey > Tweezer Reprise

[1] Unfinished