Postcards From Page Side: Meatstick – The Musical and Rediscovering IT

And let’s not forget about the music from this run. Now, I’ve said it a bunch in my nightly reviews throughout stints of tour in ’09 and ’10, that Phish still showed flashes of brilliance. Sure, they put together certain mega-jams like the Seven Below > Ghost from Albany ’09, or certain segue-fest sets like Merriweather or Utica in ’10, but I’d be flat out lying if I said that I’d seen them put it all together into a cohesive whole. That all changed in my home city (NYC), at my home venue (MSG), after traversing the country for thousands of miles, showing that the best is us is often right under our nose, in a comfortable setting.

12/30 was as solid a first set as Phish can play, with great execution and a setlist that broke the mold. But, NYE was when the first of two things really hit “home” for me. At the end of their second set on the final evening of 2010, Phish played undoubtedly their best *JAM* since Hampton. Ghost was again the guilty party. I mean, THE “Ghost.” A version that I have not allowed myself to listen to again since it was happening. This version not only tossed a few stones at the glass house that Phish 3.0 has been living in, but hit the red, Wonka-vator button and skyrocketed into the stratosphere. Please, just do yourself a favor and listen to this version. It is INSPIRED, uplifting, peaking, glorious, funky and razor sharp, while firing like a locked in four-cylinder engine, a simile I often use to refer to the best types of Phish jams throughout their career: mutual participation and some ESP-type shit going on between members of this band.

However, after the Ghost, the band did not relent and instead went for IT, slamming down a huge You Enjoy Myself, complete with a culmination of Manteca proper in the middle, finally opening the flood gates of an entire year that had seen the band tease and quote the song many times – yet another sign of the band having FUN. Those 40 or so minutes were going to be hard to top, or so I thought. Follow that up with “Meatstick, The Musical” as shown above, and you had one hell of a memorable New Year’s Eve, and my personal favorite and “best” musically since Big Cypress.

While NYE was surely special – as it always is – no one had any idea what a New Year’s Day show would involve, and surely saw a noticeably tired crowd, at least at the show’s onset. Pfft. No one told that to the band though, as they played a nearly two-hour first set, capped off by sublime old school chestnuts Divided Sky and Reba. There would be no antics tonight, just the straight ahead business of attending to the task at hand – delivering the improvisational goods.

But, what transpired in my own mind, heart and soul during the final set of the five-night New Year’s Run was something that even I could never, ever have expected – Phish, for the millionth time, topped themselves. In a mere hour-plus second set, the band FINALLY turned the corner that they had been peeking around for the last two years. Stringing together a no frills, cohesive-as-they-come closing frame, it was as if the Waters of Jordan were washing over every soul in the building and witnessing the TRUE rebirth of a band that finally let go of the reigns and relied upon their past experiences and chops to bring them back, well, “home.” And god damn, I would be lying if I said it didn’t feel great. For an hour, I was 16 again, hanging on every note the band threw my way. The sequence of  Crosseyed and Painless > Twist > Simple > Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley > Makisupa Policeman > David Bowie ALL, I repeat ALL had exceptionally noteworthy moments. The Simple was sublime and the Sneakin’ Sally was funky and as nasty as ever, just the way she should be. Toss in an excellent Bowie (I told you last week that certain songs reign supreme at MSG, and Bowie is certainly one of them), and you have a weiner, I mean, winner.

To be crystal clear on this: the 2nd set of the January 1st show was hands-down my favorite set of Phish since their return. Period. Argue all you want, but this is the one that I, myself, will always look back upon and cite as the one where the band truly and unconditionally discovered IT again. Sure, personal perspective and selfish reasons (“Sally”) may play into that, but you know what? That’s what makes this band soooo great, the open debate, and different strokes for different folks, as they say.

All I can say in concluding is, as much as I may have wanted to believe that Phish was honestly back over the past few years, like a pre-teen wanting to forget he just heard there was no Santa Claus, but this time I mean it whole-heartedly.  And, we only have to wait five or six months to see how the next steps play out.  Shucks, but so it goes. Now, I’m hungry.  Anyone want to grab a hot dog?

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5 Responses

  1. Agreed all the way….1111 set 2 reigns supreme in my 3.0 book (and there was a lot of heat dropped all over Fall tour & the NYE run)

  2. Hi Brian,

    Wut up Brotha!

    Thanks for the descriptive breakdown. I was not able to attend this NYE but really appreciate the first hand account.

    Happy New Year!

  3. wow couldnt say it better myself. I actually heard people complaining that 1.1.11 set 2 was to short!! I almost crapped my pants. That set was the best I have seen phish in a long time and Ive been seeing them since 95 (not throwing stats). Every tour I see them get a little bit better and with each tour it seems like wow they are back again. I didnt expect much in 09 bc well how could you honestly have high expectations for a band that did not play for 4 years. They flashed moments but fall was great halloween was great and yes my friend the new years run was the best yet. The DWD>GHOST>YEM! straight awesome and that doesnt even factor in set 2 of the first day of the new year. My 2 fav covers are Salley and cross eyed so ya to each their own but the simple jam the quote in makisupa wow thats all i have left to say except thank you phish for ALWAYS making me happy in a sometimes unhappy world

  4. gotta love when that sally comes back in after the vocal jam

    but what about Manchester? What about Albany2? The 10/30 pre-halloween Zepfest??

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