Madison Square Garden  NY NY 

December 28 and 29 2016

by Christopher Snyder

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New York City is magical at the end of December. With the holidays in full swing, people from all over the country flock to the city for the festivities. For a number of years, Phish, has closed out the year at the legendary Madison Square Garden. Since their first appearance on December 30th, 1994, the New Years shows have been one of the most anticipated runs each year.

On Wednesday, December 28th, the quartet from Vermont, began the first of four sold out nights. You could feel the electricity fill the air inside the arena as showtime neared. As the lights went down the roars from the crowd were deafening as the band greeted New York City with waves and smiles all around.

The four band members stood at the stage and started out the evening with an a cappella rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”. This was a perfect way to start out the run, as it brought fans and band together in sweet harmony. “Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan”, got the capacity crowd up and moving early on. The hidden gem of the first set was the Velvet Underground rarity, “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” that flowed nicely into the Billy Breathes tune, “Free”. You could tell that the Vermont natives were really feeling the groove at this point in the evening. The energy kept flowing with a stellar version of the 1978 Son Seals classic, “Funky Bitch” and an upbeat set closer, “Cavern”.

Lead guitarist/vocalist, Trey Anastasio, led the foursome in TV On The Radio’s, “Golden Age”, that transitioned beautifully into “Simple”, that featured the thumping bass of Mike Gordon, and the dress wearing Jon Fishman, really kept the beat intact with his superb drumming. If you listened closely, Page McConnell, or “Leo”, as he is nicknamed, teased ” Little Drummer Boy ” during the cover.  The highlight of the night came with the veterans throwing “Tweezer Reprise” in the middle of “Martian Monster”, as the lyrics were changed to “Your trip is short”.

Closing out the first night was a powerful version of the 1969 Led Zeppelin tune, “Good Times Bad Times”. As fans flowed out into the New York City streets you knew that the opening night brought musical joy to those attendance.

The beauty of Phish is that you never know what is in store, when it come to their live performances. For the second night, the band began the evening barbershop quartet style with the late 1930’s number, “Sweet Adeline”. The packed  house went into a frenzy with the opening notes of the Frank Zappa classic, “Peaches En Regalia”. The momentum built up with the staple “Mike’s Song” into a slow, moving version of “Secret Smile” that was topped with the ever so popular, “Weekapaug Groove”. Paying homage to another legendary group of musicians, Ween, “Roses Are Free”, brought delight to fans, as they sang every word at the top of their lungs. Bringing the first set to a close was a down and dirty, “Split Open And Melt”, that gave the band an opportunity to open up and let loose.

From the youtube channel of Kembra Allen

With Mike Gordon’s opening bass riff, “Down With Disease”, eased everyone a steady groove and kept the good times rolling at Madison Square Garden. Way back on New Years Eve 2010, Phish performed a “Meatstick”, that was for the record books. Almost six years to the date, the band decided to bring the song back into rotation. It wasn’t as much of a production as the former, but it was just as magical, with the band and audience coming together for the “Meatstick” dance. You could tell that the legendary musicians were really hitting their stride in “Twenty Years Later” that led into the gem, “Kung”. During “Makisupa Policeman”, the four showcased their percussion abilities, giving way to a strong rendition of “Harry Hood” to finish off the second set. “Julius” brought night two at Madison Square Garden to an official close.

Playing at one of the country’s most recognizable arenas for over twenty two years, the four (Anastasio, Gordon, McConnell, and Fishman), along with their fans unending dedication, has made the band truly shine in the live setting for over three decades.

A snippet of Julius from the video channel of Phil Rose

To Submit a review or story for consideration hit us at [email protected]

Check out the Live Music News and Facebook page for updates and announcements.