Phish returned to the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” Madison Square Garden for the 57th time in their career on Friday, opening the first of four nights with a high energy, well-rounded show featuring songs which spanned their entire career.
Many fans were wondering whether or not they would see the return of any of Halloween 18’s Kasvot Vaxt songs, and those questions were answered immediately with a show opening, grooved out “We Are Come to Outlive Our Brains.” The crowd erupted as the band took no time stretching their jam muscles with a creeping psychedelic build before returning to the final refrain. The short but sweet “Martian Monster” that followed got the crowd going with some fast-paced space funk that propelled the entire crowd into another dimension for a brief moment as the illuminated arena swirled with color from every direction.
The band kept the energy up in the stratosphere with standard, but rocking versions of “Axilla,” “Free” and “The Wedge,” which had everyone in the crowd feeling the feeling they forgot. The less frequented crowd favorite “Meat” followed and included a patient, extended jam which allowed the groove to breathe as the band dropped the tempo and showcased just how well they are able to bounce ideas off one another. “Ghost” followed, and though it was a relatively short version, the band took no time getting to an intense peak before segueing beautifully into the Phishgrass classic “Sparkle.” Next came a beautiful “If I Could,” the first ever played at MSG, and the second version in three shows despite how rare the song normally is.
“Maze” came next and was arguably the highlight of the set with knife-cutting tension and locked-in interplay between Trey and Page, as each played their respective solos with a little more gusto than typically seen. The set ended on an extremely high note with a rocking “Walls of the Cave” which featured multiple peaks from Trey as they sent the elated crowd to set break.
Set two didn’t have the greatest flow of the second sets this year, however what the set lacked in sequence they made up for with putting a little extra on every song they played. “Set Your Soul Free” opened the set, and featured the longest extended jamming of the night. The rocking TAB-turned-Phish tune oozed with psychedelia as it went through multiple movements and featured each band member strutting their stuff. CK5 put a little extra into the light show as the inside of the garden became an enormous kaleidoscope and brought the feeling of ecstasy to the next level. As the jam came down they transitioned seamlessly into the Billy Breathes combo of rarities “Swept Away” and “Steep” that featured delicate playing all around.
“The Final Hurrah,” the second Kasvot Vaxt song of the night came next, to the crowd’s delight, and featured a bit more mustard than the debut version as the combination of lights and thrashing sound squeezed the arena. The band took a bit of time deciding what to play next when they finally landed on “Fuego.” This “Fuego” was anything but ordinary and felt like the gift that kept on giving as the band peaked the song multiple times. Every time it felt like it was going to end, Trey turned it up a notch and ripped through another glorious solo. “Shade” came next for a much needed cool down before an always welcome and crunchy “Bathtub Gin” picked the energy back up. The set ended on a classic, tension-filled “Possum” which featured peak after peak to end the set on a very high note.
Thankfully, the end wasn’t the road, however, as the band came out with a two-song classic throwback encore. A standard “Bouncing Around the Room” led to a patient, building “Slave to the Traffic Light” which saw some fiery playing from Trey and left everyone going home wanting more. Phish will return to the Madison Square Garden for the second night of the run tonight, and it’s anyone’s guess as to what tricks they have up their sleeves.
Phish, Madison Square Garden, December 28, 2018
Trey teased The Little Drummer Boy in Bathtub Gin. Possum included a Long Tall Glasses tease from Page.