The final Stealing Time of 2009 cooled things down for a bit until we were treated to the ultra-rare Corrina, a tune the band had busted out ten years to the day at Big Cypress. It was tender moment to say the least as Trey delivered the soulful lyrics and a searing solo. At this point we knew this was no ordinary 12/30 show and that theory was confirmed when the quartet dropped the gorgeous instrumental What’s The Use? for the first time since November 28, 2003. The band alluded to What’s The Use? the previous evening, but last night we got the whole enchilada – and it was a tasty treat. This was all thanks to a fan who kept on yelling for What’s The Use? who was directly behind the quartet. Sir, I don’t know who you are but you are AWESOME.
Our crew of folks were already exchanging dozens of high-fives and knowing glances during What’s The Use, but the celebration reached a whole new level when without fanfare Phish started the first Tela in 11 years. Part of Trey Anastasio’s Gamehendge story, Tela features beautiful vocals from Page and a soaring Trey solo at the end. Each part of the tune was played well with Big Red going for the gusto with even quicker runs of notes at the end than usual. Looking around the venue you could see all sorts of people freaking out, most taking in their first Tela with the biggest smiles you could imagine. It was that kinda night, a night when anything can and would happen.
Next up was the first Phish version of Gone – a tune Anastasio debuted with the Classic TAB ensemble in Brooklyn back in August ’08. The band stayed pretty close to those early Classic TAB takes on Gone which was sound checked at Festival 8. There was one more rarity left for set one, a fun Rocky Top that was the first since July 19, 2003. Chalk Dust and Bowie gave the band a couple of chances to get their rocks off before calling it a set – and what a set it was.
There was an incredible buzz around the arena at halftime as most fans seeked out their bros and brahs with looks of disbelief on their faces. We were incredulous to the fact that this show wasn’t over, seven bust outs down and we still had one set to go! Would Phish play it straight for set two? The minute Fish and Mike kicked into the second Sand of ’09 told us otherwise. While this Sand didn’t have the bite or focus of the Camden version, it still provided plenty of opportunities to dance. Towards the end of the tune Anastasio dropped a couple of mind-bending riffs that showed off the experience of his years.
Curtain With followed and once again the band nailed this tune they so horribly destroyed in Coventry. Page McConnell asserted himself nicely in the “With jam” which helped propel Anastasio. After the nasty Sand, Curtain With opening sequence it was time to take things down a notch, so why not bust out a ballad? It’s 12/30 so your wish is the band’s command as they performed a beauty of a Lifeboy during which there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Like a roller coaster it was time to go up once more and get Back On The Train. As an example of the craziness we were dealing with last night: we got a Type-II Back on the Train! That’s right, they veered off path into some marvelous jam spaces that had no sign of the typical GBOTT structure. Not only were we getting bust outs, we were getting jams.
Following another trip down the roller coaster with Wading, Trey put down his guitar and headed for Fish’s kit. Fish strode to the front of the stage and explained that he couldn’t perform a vacuum solo because he had already proclaimed a previous night’s vacuum solo “the last vacuum solo of the aughts.” He told the crowd that while he couldn’t play a vacuum solo in Love You, perhaps a member of the crowd could do it, someone who looked like him. And with that, Fish called out a shaggy gentleman named Rich who had been riding the rail dressed in a t-shirt that had the same pattern as the drummer’s dress. Rich had his life changed in the course of two minutes as the crowd went absolutely ape-shit for their fellow fan.
Now, playing a vacuum solo isn’t easy so we didn’t exactly have high hopes for Rich, yet he absolutely nailed the pacing of his solo during the Syd Barrett tune. He stayed on key and everyone went nuts goading him on. Each member of the band was eating this whole scene up as I don’t think I’ve ever seen Anastasio smile so hard. Fish was so impressed he decided to give Rich his trusty Electrolux except he couldn’t unplug it. A member of the crew came out and helped Fish present this ultimate prize during one of the best fan-participation stunts of the band’s history. Just like that Rich returned to his spot on the rail, a different man and a hero of his peers. Rich, if you are out there, helluva job buddy.
I can’t even explain the level of love coming from the crowd at this point. We were witnessing something…dare I say…epic and we enjoyed every single minute of it. After a hard rocking Free, Mike Gordon kicked off the final Boogie On Reggae Woman of ’09. Anastasio defered to Gordon right from the start and gave him all sorts of opportunities to give his pedals a workout. Eventually Mike just sort of stared at Anastasio looking for the guitarist to end the tune but Trey shot a look right back that said keep it going. Mike complied laying down some juicy synth’d out bass lines that kept the crowd moving. Shortly thereafter Big Red started Run Like An Antelope but immediately we knew something was up.
Within the first segment of the song, Fish kept picking up the tempo as Anastasio would drop some Boogie On teases. This was as close to a mash-up as we’ve seen from the boys. Trey kept on teasing Boogie On throughout every segment of the tune which also featured some dirty improvisation. The Boogie ‘Lope was badass and just another sign of how good we had it on this night. Not only did Phish bust out songs but they also busted out instruments as Page rocked the Keytar for the energetic Frankenstein encore.
Halloween and New Year’s Eve have their gimmicks, but 12/30 has always had the bust outs. If there’s a date to circle on your calendar each year it’s December 30. Last night’s show not only did its 12/30 brethren proud but it just might have topped them all. It remains to be seen if the band will have anything left in the tank for the final show of the year this evening.