Phish began their annual four-night run at Madison Square Garden in New York City last night, and it was an impressive first night at the venue for me and the first time I’ve ever done a run out here in New York. I was like a kid in the candy store waiting to get into the venue and get situated.
The show kicked off with a debut called “Evening Song,” a bit of a relaxed intro to the show and not the strongest debut ever given that it seemed like the band missed a lyric cue at one point. “No Men in No Man’s Land” came next and got the band and crowd nicely warmed up, but “Down with Disease” brought the energy in the room all the way up.
“20/20 Vision” got the Mike slot and the waltz vibe mid-set, which made way for a HUGE “Ghost” with a swirly, upbeat jam. “Gumbo” was the opposite, slower than usual and swampy as hell. Page got extra expressive towards the end, and Trey was just itching for him to finish up so he could launch into the riff for “Rift.” The perfect delivery brought out “Weigh,” an extra funky version and a fun, fun part of the set for me. “Dog Faced Boy” was a treat for the stats, “Twenty Years Later” flowed next, a nice Type I “Tube” was after, but the set closed with the “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” singalong.
For the second set, “Everything’s Right” had a nice jam come out of it and made way towards the blissful jazz freeform vibes out of “Beneath a Sea of Stars,” which got into some amazing ambient jazz in the middle. It’s the closest the band gets to that Tower Jam type vibe where they all lose the beat and all relax and play to each other. Really beautiful 10 minutes of the show, don’t skip it.
— LIVE (music blog) (@livemusicblog) December 29, 2019
“Set Your Soul Free” brought out a killer jam and got loose before Trey found the riff for “Gotta Jibboo” and got the band to bring the audience up a bit. “Free” got extra chunky towards the end, and “Piper” was a perfect placement and got the crowd dancing and twirling.
“Drowned” was a welcome treat, and the jam got deep before Fishman started to bust out the “Guy Forget” lyrics that have shown up a few times in the past. I’d call it an official part of the setlist, but the Phish.net gods may not agree. “Ass Handed” came next, and as soon as it could finish, Trey and the band started into the “Chalk Dust Torture Reprise” song but fully changed the lyrics to “Ass Handed.” They were also quoting “Guy Forget” lyrics throughout. It was hilarious. Perfect Phish moment.
“Character Zero” closed the set, and the beautiful encore of “A Life Beyond the Dream” made way for a quick “Rocky Top” and us fans sent off into the night. Quite a special one for my first time there.
Here’s the setlist as I saw it:
Phish at Madison Square Garden NYC 12.28.19
Here’s Paul Citone’s gallery from the show.