For their eleventh New Years at Madison Square Garden, Phish found a new way to combine their creativity within the World’s Most Famous Venue and their annual celebration of the beginning of a new year. In the past, Phish has moved the stage to the center (2013), and the other side of the arena (2015), and this time set sail upon a ship, with the stage serving as the bow of the boat that would chart the crowd into 2018.
Fans arrived at their seats to bracelets that were designed to assist them on their voyage of cosmic discovery, and when this was learned early in the day, the buzz and potential for the participatory light show sent fans buzzing. In 2012, Coldplay used similar devices to engage fans on their Mylo Xyloto Tour, which had fans giddy with excitement leading into the waning hours of the year.
Kicking off a more than 80 minute set was a powerhouse, no-let-up set that will serve as a standard by which other NYE first sets can be measured. “Carini” as set opener was the bellwether for a strong, full force set that chugged forward into the night. Diving into “Fluffhead” early into the set, the electric crowd was plugged in for the rousing “Fluff came to New York” announcement, a hallmark of a fiery MSG New Years Eve sets. “Reba” continued the stellar set, capped by heavy hitters “46 Days,” “Maze,” and “Character Zero.”
For set two, another six song second set, the third of the run, was on par with previous years that kept the Garden bouncing deep into the final hours of the year. “Possum” kept energy from set one up, and a Type II “Fuego” lit the room. “Gotta Jibboo” went Type II as well and stayed there for one of the best jams of the run, while “Golgi Apparatus” foreshadowed the audience using their bracelets, a memento of their ticket stubs, visibly on their hands for later in the show. As a twist, the audience was thrown for a loop into “What’s the Use,” the only thing close to a breather during this heater of a set. “You Enjoy Myself” served as the perfect closing to the set with a large, extended vocal jam.
The curated third set featured rope access technicians coming to the stage shortly after the start of “Soul Planet,” a debuted catchy and jammy number that kicked things off right out of the gate. As the techs jugged up and down the rope, the sail began to unfurl and rotate to face each side of the crowd as the song’s refrain “Oceans are rough, Soul Planet” was repeated over a steady jam that grooved the audience through the last 15 minutes of 2017. With cannons exploding to countdown the last ten seconds of 2017, and the S.S. MSG headed full steam into 2018.
With fans a part of the art, the stage serving as both bow and stern of the boat, the crowd was the sea and glowed with changing light patterns from the LED bracelets. Fresh from “Auld Lang Syne” roared an invigorating “Free” that pushed forward into a nearly 20 minute “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” mirroring the beauty of the Baker’s Dozen version. Seaworthy version of “Moma Dance,” “Prince Caspian” and “Wading in the Velvet Sea” followed, then a lifesaver in the form of “First Tube” constituted the finale for this well crafted set. “Loving Cup,” one of only two covers the entire run, closed the show with a beautiful buzz and capped 17 shows at Madison Square Garden in 2017. Only Phish, and only in New York.
Setlist via Phish.net
Set 1: Carini > Suzy Greenberg > My Friend, My Friend, Fluffhead, Reba, Poor Heart > 46 Days > Maze > Character Zero
Set 2: Possum > Fuego > Gotta Jibboo > Golgi Apparatus > What’s the Use? > You Enjoy Myself
Set 3: Soul Planet > Auld Lang Syne > Free, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing > The Moma Dance > Prince Caspian > Wading in the Velvet Sea > First Tube
Encore: Loving Cup
 Phish debut