Every Phish fan knows the meaning of “the night before”. Tomorrow is a big show like Halloween or New Year’s Eve and the band drops an absolute scorcher of a show to get us pumped for the massive event to come.
After Wednesday’s slightly uneven and messy opener (still a really fun show – check out my review here), expectations were high for what was originally slated to be the 12/30/21 show. The last few December 30th Phish shows have included incredible moments like the legendary 35-minute Tweezer in 2019, the Glide II bustout and overall insane show in 2018, and a 27-minute Down with Disease in 2017 that stands as one of my favorite versions of the song.
4/21/22 established itself as “one of those nights” right from the jump, with Trey shouting out THE Suzy Greenberg for her first show as the crowd erupted with an insane burst of energy. Two strongly-played versions of 46 Days and Plasma followed the blazing opener with short but concise jams in each.
The first WOW-inducing moment of the night came next with a pretty clean reading of The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, complete with the Avenu Malkenu sandwiched in between. After a quick check of the last two times this song was played (9/1/21, 7/14/19), I was then certain that the rest of the show would continue to be legendary.
The jamming began in the Wolfman’s Brother late in set 1, continuing its 2022 streak after the absurd 22-minute version played in Mexico in February. Sticking to the bouncy groove of the song, Page worked the Rhodes beautifully as Trey took the reins toward the end and erupted into a massive peak to end the song. The crowd fed off of and loved EVERY SECOND of it, and I truly began to understand why MSG is Phish’s home court and the best place to see them.
Continuing with a rare and well-executed Esther (another first for me!), the band closed the set with a powerful Ghost. Taking the now-traditional bliss modulation, Trey seemed to be heading for the end around the 14-minute mark, but the band egged him on and he assertively drove into a manic and rocking jam that almost hinted at Tweezer Reprise to close the song and set.
When the band walked onstage for the second set and ripping directly into Chalk Dust Torture, there was no doubt about this version going deep. As has been the trend for this run so far, Phish stuck to major-key themes throughout instead of the more Sci-Fi Soldier-ish weird jams that dominated 2021. Trey confidently soared through the driving and beautiful Chalk Dust before smoothly transitioning into Tweezer (see 8/7/15 for the last amazing second-set opening CDT -> Tweezer). Beginning the jam with a relaxed vibe, Phish really leaned into the groove, working in aspects and themes of both Your Pet Cat and the Free jam (at least to my ears). Mike then led the band into an absolutely perfect modulation to major key.
Here’s where the jam got crazy.
Trey continued to play the Your Pet Cat-like riff, but it took on different meaning in the gorgeous bliss soundscape. Page’s gentle Wurlitzer playing and Fish’s insistent drumbeat pushed the jam as Trey gently began to solo in an incredibly patient and gorgeous theme. Seeming to stretch for much longer than its 14 minute runtime, Tweezer was absolutely perfect and the crowd ate up every second, absolutely captivated by the beauty of what was being produced in front of us. There was one moment around the 13-minute mark where Trey sustained a long note overtop of a silky bed of electric piano that provoked a loud cheer from the crowd. Absolute madness.
As Tweezer faded, Fish dropped into the familiar 2001 drumbeat and Madison Square Garden erupted as over 20,000 people began to aggressively dance at the same time. Trey played some fantastic funky rhythm guitar as Page took advantage of his synths throughout the patient jam. After the get-down dance break of 2001, Phish ripped through an incendiary Maze > About to Run pairing before taking the first real breather of the set in The Mango Song.
When an absolutely spectacular Hood came next, most people (myself included) assumed that the set would end there. The band wasn’t done, however, and Trey emphatically ripped the opening riff to Character Zero.
As much as people like to hate on this song to close second sets, the crowd absolutely RAGED for this tune and sang along to every word. Led by Page shifting to clav, Zero got dark and filthy for a couple of minutes before Trey dropped into Tweezer for a minute before cleanly transitioning back to Zero to close the set.
Let that process for a minute. Character Zero -> Tweezer -> Character Zero to close the second set.
A great encore of power ballad A Life Beyond the Dream and the best three minutes in rock music (Tweezer Reprise) closed this legendary show with more incredible energy from both the band and crowd.
This band is nearly 40 years into their career and continues to blow minds in unexpected ways. Tonight we celebrate New Year’s Eve in April and I could not be more excited to see what Phish has in store for us across three sets.
Phish Madison Square Garden – New York, NY 4/21/22
Set 1: Suzy Greenburg > 46 Days, Plasma, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avnenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Wolfman’s Brother, Esther, Ghost
Set 2: Chalkdust Torture -> Tweezer > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Maze, About To Run, The Mango Song > Harry Hood, Character Zero -> Tweezer -> Character Zero
E: A Life Beyond The Dream, Tweezer Reprise
This was the rescheduled date for the show that had been postponed due to the Omicron variant of COVID-19 surge in New York City in December of 2021. Suzy Greenberg was dedicated to “the hero of the song,” Suzy Greenberg, who was attending her first Phish show. Chalk Dust Torture was unfinished. Trey teased Super Bad in 2001. Mike quoted Kung and Trey teased Plasma in Harry Hood. The conclusion of Character Zero contained a Third Stone from the Sun tease from Trey