Saturday, December 31, 2016

Phish at Madison Square Garden

Guitarists Trey Anastasio and Jeff Holdsworth, bassist Mike Gordon, and drummer Jon Fishman formed Blackwood Convention in 1981 while attending university in Burlington, Vermont. Blackwood Convention became Phish, keyboardist Page McConnell joined in 1985, and Holdsworth left after graduating in 1986, solidifying the band's present lineup. Phish built a following among Grateful Dead fans and surged in popularity after the death of the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia in 1995. Phish went on hiatus in 2000, regrouped in 2002, split again in 2004, and reunited in 2009. Phish has sold over 8 million albums and DVDs in the United States. Phish's 16th and most recent studio album, Big Boat, was released on October 7, 2016.

Phish once again headlined a series of year-end concerts at Madison Square Garden, and ended again with a grand spectacle. The band opened standing together center stage and singing a cappella barbershop quartet-style harmony on a cover of Fraternity of Man's 1968 song "Don't Bogart Me" (also known as Little Feat's 1997 "Don't Bogart That Joint"). From there, the concert turned into one long electric jam party, with Phish performing three sets instead of the usual two. The music was all over the genre spectrum, crossing hard rock, progressive rock, psychedelic rock, folk, country, jazz, blues, bluegrass, funk, reggae and pop, as one song melted into another. Improvisations ruled, some worked within epic multi-faceted suites. The third set and encore saw the band temporarily enlarged with the Trey Band horns, featuring Natalie Cressman on trombone and vocals, Jennifer Hartswick on trumpet and vocals, and James Casey on saxophone, along with Jeff Tanski on keyboards and Andres Forero on percussion.

The visual spectacle began 20 minutes before midnight. As Phish returned to the stage for a third set, the quartet launched into an immaculately calculated "Petrichor", which eventually formed a medley with a midnight "Auld Lang Syne" and a horn-centric "Suzy Greenberg." As the band played, some 20 masked and suited choreographed dancers at the edge of the stage danced and juggled with umbrellas under a simulated rainstorm. The dancers then filed off stage and suspended umbrellas danced to Phish's music. Finally, at midnight, to "Auld Lang Syne," a massive balloon and confetti drop, including globe balloons, three-foot inflated animals and foam raindrops, covered the stage and audience about five feet deep in some spots. The band played several more songs and concluded with an encore of the Rolling Stones "Loving Cup." Just wow!

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Set 1:
  1. Don't Bogart Me (Fraternity of Man cover) (a cappella)
  2. Your Pet Cat
  3. Kill Devil Falls (>) Back on the Train (>) My Soul (Clifton Chenier cover)
  4. Lawn Boy
  5. The Divided Sky
  6. Ya Mar (Cyril Ferguson cover)
  7. Character Zero
  8. Walls of the Cave

Set 2:
  1. Also sprach Zarathustra (Richard Strauss cover) (>) Carini (>) Twist (with 'Low Rider' tease) (>) Piper (>) Ass Handed (>) Piper reprise (>) Sand (>) Slave to the Traffic Light
  2. More

Set 3:
  1. Petrichor (>) Auld Lang Syne (Robert Burns cover) (>) Suzy Greenberg
  2. No Men in No Man's Land
  3. Breath and Burning
  4. Tide Turns
  5. 555
  6. Ocelot
  7. First Tube

  1. Loving Cup (The Rolling Stones cover)