Today we celebrate the anniversary of the first Phish show ever held at New York City’s esteemed Radio City Music Hall. Fresh off the heels of a New Year’s Millennium celebration in the Everglades that made headlines worldwide, Phish was ready to take on the year 2000 with a Spring Tour of Japan on the books. But first, they would play a few gigs in New York City to dust off the cobwebs and help support their album Farmhouse which was released just days earlier. On this the first of a two-night run here, Phish would wind up playing about half of the new album’s songs while mixing in other classics in a show that certainly lived up to the anticipation surrounding it.
Phish seems to soak in the applause for a bit from a raucous Radio City Music Hall before starting the show with thunderous “First Tube” that seemed to move the ground itself. Mike Gordon’s constant, unwavering bass line dominates this one pulled from Farmhouse that continues to be a mainstay at shows to this day. A familiar first set face in “Wolfman’s Brother” gets played next, adding a veritable dose of funk to the revered music hall, with sound coming through in pristine fashion thanks to Radio City’s amazing acoustics.
An early show “Squirming Coil” then makes an appearance. The “Little Jimmy’s off to camp” line seems to get a noticeable roar of approval from the crowd, perhaps in respect to last summer’s legendary (and sweltering) Camp Oswego festival in Upstate New York. After a fairly brief Page McConnell closing piano solo, the opening to “Possum” emerge which reenergizes Radio City and then some with the floor once again seeming to have a discernable bounce to it, especially on the upper levels of the building. After a brief pause, the funk returns once more, this time courtesy of a bubbly “Moma Dance.”
Once “Moma” comes to a rolling stop, the opening chords to “Limb By Limb” ring out, a fellow Story Of The Ghost selection. “Limb” elicits one of the finer jams of the first set, one that slowly increases in fervor and intensity, with McConnell and Trey Anastasio on guitar musically sparring back and forth, before it closes with Jon Fishman alone on drums. “Character Zero” then wraps a bow around the much anticipated first Phish set at Radio City, a spirited and well-played one with fairly standard selection of songs for 2000.
The second set stays very much in that same vein, beginning with a “Gotta Jibboo” that produces the next standout moment of the evening. The band is instantly locked in on a blissful jam that takes off right away, aided by Anastasio’s signature digital delay loop running underneath it the entire time. This momentum carries squarely into the “Down With Disease” that comes next. The band rips through the composed section and jumps immediately into an aggressive high-octane jam that starts strong and never really lets up, with Fishman pushing both the tempo and the limits in a masterclass of drumming. Eventually, Trey reintroduces the digital delay loop with Page adding in some harrowing organ fills as the band takes their time crafting this one. It all adds up to a 20-minute “Disease” that’s the highlight of the show and one of the better ones ever played to date.
In a true case of juxtaposition, Phish lets the crowd catch their breath a little and trots out the introspective “Dirt,” yet another Farmhouse selection. This would actually begin a three-song run from the new album (and four of five including “Jibboo”) in the second set as “Twist” follows and brings with it a mellow, groove-infused jam that turns into near ambience.
This lays the foundation for “Piper” and its customary (at the time) slow build introduction. “Piper” goes from slow to lightening quick in a hurry, with Anastasio shredding out the main chords in rapid fashion with Fishman, once again, doing some otherworldly business on the drums. Instead of stretching “Piper” out further, it comes to a rather abrupt stop and Phish pivots to “Harry Hood,” much to the delight of the Radio City crowd.
Phish doesn’t mess around with “Hood” and delivers a splendidly euphoric version of one their signature songs, a slow build of emotion before cresting perfectly. A second set full of music and memorable jams could have easily ended right there with few complaints. But from the ashes of “Hood,” McConnell emerges alone on piano and begins “Wading In The Velvet Sea” to add another emotion-provoking song to the list. Afterwards, both he and Trey expressed their appreciation for being able to play at Radio Music Hall, where they had both been able to see the great Stevie Wonder perform, with Trey making some especially poignant and heartfelt remarks about the current state of Phish and the scene it has created.
With that said and done, the resurrected “Guyute” then closes out the second set in grand fashion. The “I hope this happens once again line” at its completion gets another extra round of applause from the crowd. For an encore, Phish trots out one last Farmhouse selection with the acoustic “The Inlaw Josie Wales” before “Loving Cup,” the lone cover song of the night, sends the Radio City crowd home glowing, eagerly anticipating what’s to follow in round two tomorrow.
Take a listen to the whole show below or song by song at PhishTracks.
Phish Radio City Music Hall – New York, NY 5/21/00
Set 1: First Tube, Wolfman’s Brother, The Squirming Coil, Possum, The Moma Dance > Limb By Limb > Character Zero
Set 2: Gotta Jibboo, Down With Disease > Dirt, Twist > Piper, Harry Hood > Wading In The Velvet Sea, Guyute
E: The Inlaw Josie Wales, Loving Cup