Phish ended 2010 with a bang. Their New Years run included five shows, beginning with two shows at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA on 12-27 and 12-28 and ending with three sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden in New York City on 12-30, 12-31, and their first ever 1-1 show. On their first ever 5-night New Years run, there was rarely a dull moment. Phish gained an enormous amount of musical progress from their previous New Years run in Miami, and nobody was let down.
Due to an intense blizzard that struck the entire Northeast, many flights were cancelled and a lot of fans were unable to attend the show. Had I not switched my flights at the last second, I would not have made the Worcester shows. A lot of friends were forced to either drive through the intense snow or simply not go. The first night yielded a lot of empty seats, but the show was good nevertheless.
DCU is an awesome venue with great sound anywhere I went. Security was very lax, and I was able to go anywhere inside the venue to dance. Chris Kuroda’s lightshows were great in DCU, and the band’s sound was spectacular.
The first night of Worcester was arguably the band’s best tour opener since their 2009 reunion. Phish played a great show that included many references to the inclement weather. Opening with ‘Sample In A Jar,’ the show was off to a mellow start. It seemed like the band could not figure out if they wanted to play a mellow show or a high-energy show, but that did not slow them down. Highlights of the first set included a ‘Funky Bitch(where Page McConnell soloed much longer than usual, switching from organ to piano)’, the Velvet Underground’s ‘Cool It Down,’ ‘It’s Ice,’ and Mike Gordon’s ‘What Things Seem.’ The crowd was very pleased with all the snow and cold-weather references, as we were all calling these songs beforehand. The only disappointment was the lack of the ‘Buried Alive’ opener.
The second set began with ‘Mike’s Song.’ Highlights of set two included the Phish rarity, ‘Mound,’ and ‘Seven Below’ into ‘What’s The Use?’ where Trey Anastasio heavily teased ‘What’s The Use?’ in a major key during ‘Seven Below.’ The jam between these two songs was superb, and was my favorite of the night. A fan near the front of the pit was holding a ‘What’s The Use?’ sign, and was definitely happy about getting a request played. The encore was the Rolling Stones’ ‘Loving Cup.’ In my opinion this song is overplayed, but Phish really jammed it in Worcester, bringing the audience to their feet one last time that night.
Night two brought even more intensity. Phish played a high-energy show, complete with many bust outs. The show opener was ‘Kill Devil Falls.’ I used to dislike that tune, but after seeing Phish play it complete with extended jams in Atlantic City and Worcester, I am now a believer.
During the intro section of ‘Alaska,’ Anastasio used a recording device to play quotes by Sarah Palin, getting a lot of laughs from the audience. Highlights of this set included a short but sweet ‘My Mind’s Got A Mind Of Its Own,’ the twelve-year Taj Mahal bustout ‘She Caught The Katy And Left Me A Mule To Ride,’ a super-funky ‘Wolfman’s Brother,’ a new tune by Anastasio and Tom Marshall, ‘Pigtail,’ and another new a cappella tune called ‘The Birdwatcher.’ During the ‘Wolfman’s Brother,’ I remember dancing so hard I could barely breathe. This set was extremely fun, and probably the best of the Worcester shows. The only detriment to this set was the botched intro section during ‘Rift.’
Set two opened with a very heavy ‘Carini.’ The band followed a very interested song progression. ‘Back on the Train’ seemed to flow perfectly into ‘Limb by Limb,’ which flowed perfectly into ‘The Wedge.’
Other highlights of this set included ‘Frankie Says’ into Neal Young’s ‘Albuquerque,’ and the best ‘Harry Hood’ I have ever seen. The jam on ‘Hood’ was phenomenal, and anyone who was there would agree that it was amazing. The encore was the Rolling Stones’ ‘Shine a Light.’ I found it odd that the band used Rolling Stone encores two nights in a row, but did not complain.
The 29th was a day off, and many fans made the somewhat short trek from Massachusetts to New York City. The weather had warmed up, but traffic was still bad. Many fans went to other shows in New York City that night. A lot of my friends went to see Prince at Madison Square Garden. I could not bring myself to buy an overpriced scalped ticket to Prince, so I saw the Disco Biscuits at Terminal 5. Their current drummer had been hospitalized for an asthma attack, so their original drummer joined them for their New Years run. It was a really fun show, but they are certainly not Phish.
Madison Square Garden is an enormous venue. Hovering above Penn Station on 34th Street in Manhattan, it towers above its surroundings. Fans swarmed the streets all three nights, and the subways all over the city were packed with happy concertgoers. The venue is a little confusing inside, but after the first show, I had figured it out. It certainly was nice to be able to buy sushi at a Phish show, and vendors in every corner of the venue made it easy to get food or drinks without wondering too far. The sheer size of the venue is amazing. Because the venue is suspended, the ground swayed the entire show.
The first night of the run was excellent. There were no bust outs or rarities, but everything that was played, was played with vigor and intensity. I caught a cold the night before at the Disco Biscuits show, and after dancing like a madman at the first night of MSG, I felt healed.
Opening with The Talking Heads’ ‘Cities’ for the first time ever, the show was off to a good start. The PA went out for a minute or so during ‘Camel Walk,’ but the band played through it so well, I thought it was a Phish joke. The ‘Maze’ was so intense, I almost had to stop dancing. ‘Bathtub Gin’ was certainly the highlight of the first set, and it let directly into Little Feat’s ‘Fat Man in the Bathtub,’ one of my favorite songs from the Halloween show this year. Other set one highlights included Bob Dylan’s ‘Quinn the Eskimo,’ and ‘Timber.’
Set two yielded fewer songs, but was equally as intense. Opening with a nearly twenty minute ‘Tweezer,’ the set was off to a great start. The ‘Tweezer’ led into a well-jammed ‘Light,’ where the band took the jam on another memorable set of twists and turns. A ‘My Friend, My Friend,’ into ‘Axilla I’ came later, and had me dancing like a maniac. The ‘Fluffhead’ was played almost flawlessly, and led into ‘Boogie on Reggae Woman,’ where Gordon used his bass envelope to shake the venue. ‘Run Like an Antelope’ led into ‘Tweezer Reprise’ as an odd choice of encore. The ‘Antelope’ was not cut short at all, and I danced so hard I could barely breathe.
New Years was a blast. The first set opened with ‘Punch You in the Eye.’ Rumors of a Gamehendge set were quashed with ‘ACDC Bag.’ The song selection was strange this set, but Phish broke their record for most unique songs in a year after playing ‘Beauty of My Dreams.’ The ‘Moma Dance’ was very funky, and the ‘Scent of a Mule’ was played very well. I was ecstatic when Phish played ‘Weigh,’ a song I have always wanted to see. A Trey Anastasio Band song, ‘Burn That Bridge,’ was also played for the first time after being used as a sound check song all summer. The set ended with the best-jammed ‘Rock & Roll’ I have ever seen. I was surprised to see this song as a set-ender, as it is usually a set two opener.
Set two began with the Phish classic ‘Wilson.’ ‘Sand’ came a few songs later and Phish guided the jam through a very dark yet funky zone. Gordon’s bass rocked the entire venue. Later came ‘Down with Disease,’ which segued into ‘Ghost.’ These jams were some of the best of the tour, totaling about twenty-five minutes. There was not a dull moment in this jam, and everybody in the Garden was dancing. The set ended with ‘You Enjoy Myself.’ Even though ‘YEM’ is Phish’s most commonly played song, I enjoy it every time. In the middle of the funky jam, Phish played a short ‘Manteca,’ then sung verses from ‘Manteca’ for the rest of the ‘YEM’ jam. I was extremely happy with it. It has always been a song I wanted to see, and they tease it in other jams all the time.
The New Years set was probably the coolest set of the three nights at Madison Square Garden. Opening with ‘Meatstick,’ the band got off to a great start. During the song, multicultural singers and dancers poured on to the stage, singing verses of the song in many different languages. The band members disappeared from the stage as the song was being looped, and appeared moments later flying across the venue in a giant hot dog. As they flew, they hurled foam hot dogs to the audience members.
Upon arrival onstage, Phish danced with all the other dancers before jumping into ‘Auld Lang Syne’ at midnight. Immediately after, they played ‘After Midnight,’ which was my favorite rock jam they played during the tour. I was happy after calling both the ‘Meatstick’ and ‘After Midnight.’ The band then played ‘Backwards Down the Number Line.’ It was their first repeat on the tour, but I did not mind, because the message of the song was appropriate for a New Years set. Other highlights of the set included ‘Waste,’ ‘Slave to the Traffic Light,’ and ‘Waste.’
The final night of the run was an interesting show. The first set was probably my least favorite set of the tour, but it still had great moments. Opening with the bluesy ‘My Soul,’ Phish started the show off with a bang. The ‘Runaway Jim’ was played very well, and the ‘Reba’ jam was excellent. Phish played ‘Round Room’ for the first time since 2003. The ‘Divided Sky’ was very well played, but the song of the set was ‘Walls of the Cave.’ The set was extremely long, and went for almost an hour and forty-five minutes.
Set two opened with one of my favorite covers, ‘Crosseyed and Painless,’ by the Talking Heads. The MSG ‘Crosseyed’ was my favorite of the year. Phish jammed it for thirteen minutes before segueing into a very mellow ‘Twist.’ The ‘Simple’ included one of the coolest jams of the run, and took the title for jam of the night. ‘Sneakin’ Sally through the Alley’ included an incredible vocal jam, and segued into a great ‘Makisupa Policeman,’ where Anastasio called for Jon Fishman to play a kick drum solo. The set ended with ‘David Bowie,’ the band’s second and final repeat of the run. Phish has such a vast repertoire that a repeat in a five-show tour was disappointing, but at least it was played well.
The encore included a ‘Fee,’ complete with Anastasio on megaphone. The band then played ‘Frankenstein.’ At the end, they all walked up to the front of the stage to play, with McConnell on keytar and Fishman holding a hand-cymbal.
The 2010 New Years run was great. I can think of no better way to bring in the New Year with my favorite band. Seeing the musical progress the have made in the last year makes me extremely happy. In all the shows I saw over 2010, I was able to see Trey master his new Ocelot guitar, and the entire band become a tighter unit. I can only hope for the same progress for 2011.