Some four months after initially intended, Phish took the stage for its 65th performance at “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” Madison Square Garden. The storied NYC venue was meant to host the band’s traditional four-night New Year’s run, but, like many of the best laid December 2021 plans, Omicron forced Phish to postpone the festivities.
The postponement, however, did result in the first Phish performance on 4/20, the holiest of ‘high’ holidays, since 1994. As if Phish fans needed a reason to celebrate 4/20.
The band burst out of the gate with “Carini”, whipping up the energy in the arena before dropping quickly into a long, exploratory jam session that flowed through a dark, tense section before resolving in a bright and hopeful space. If you had asked me to call the MSG run opener, I doubt that I would have predicted a “19+ minute Carini.” And we’re off!
Drummer Jon Fishman drove the band’s energetic segue out of the “Carini” jam and into a bluesy “Possum”, which was replete with melodic solos—first from Page McConnell on the Yamaha, then Trey Anastasio on guitar. The song was played to perfection, albeit traditionally, keeping the energy levels high in the room.
Following a brief discussion, the band broke out another bluesy fan favorite, “The Moma Dance”. This was an extended “Moma” with some exceptional work on the bass from Mike Gordon, which settled into a funky and light extended jam before fading into “Leaves”. The Sigma Oasis ballad was the band’s first reference to 4/20 of the set.
After a rousing “Strange Design” led by Page, Phish continued to tease at the 4/20 holiday with enjoyable, well-played renditions of “Stash” and “Blaze On”. The “Stash” was highlighted by jazzy, melodic guitar work from Trey, clocking in at around 13 minutes. The “Blaze On” was short and sweet, ultimately bringing an end to a shorter-than-usual first set.
Phish returned from set break with “Sigma Oasis”, the title track of its early pandemic album release. The uplifting song hosted some bright guitar playing from Trey, but it was Gordo who broke through and ushered the jam into the funky “Down with Disease”. This was a lengthy, 22-minute version that waded through a floaty section before breaking into a fast-paced rock n’ roller that looped back around to the song’s traditional, not-always-played ending.
As the dust settled on a memorable “Disease”, Trey strummed the opening chords to “The Howling”, a song that debuted during the Sci-Fi Soldier Halloween 2021 show. The funky, wolf-themed number was driven by slick bass-playing and punctuated by melodic exchanges between Trey and Page, resulting in a “Sand”-like musical sprawl.
Trey continued to lead the jam segues as he brought the group into “Twist”. After the composed sections, Phish spent some time jamming on funky and up-tempo themes before ultimately winding into the song’s closing riff. The ballad “Mountains in the Mist” followed, a slower moment before bursting into “Reba”. The composed segments were played well, and the band launched into a dreamy jam segment before concluding the classic tune.
Closing out the set was “Drift While You’re Sleeping” from Trey’s Ghosts of the Forest project. The song left fans with a poignant closing message: “love will carry us through.” After all New York has been through with COVID-19, after these shows were postponed through the Omicron wave, love and dedication to the music brought everyone back to the Garden once again.
The band returned to play two 1.0-era songs for the encore: “Gumbo” and “Slave to the Traffic Light”. Both were performed well, closing night one of the four-night stand with tried and true classics.
Overall, a mellow show with some enjoyable musical moments that serves to set the stage for more good things to come. Phish returns to Madison Square Garden for three more nights of music from April 21st–23rd, including a three-set New Year’s Eve redo on the 22nd. See the full setlist below. Scroll down for a gallery of images from last night’s show courtesy of photographer Andrew Blackstein.
Setlist [via phish.net]: Phish | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 4/20/22
Set One: Carini -> Possum, The Moma Dance > Leaves, Strange Design, Stash, Blaze On
Set Two: Down with Disease > The Howling -> Twist > Mountains in the Mist, Reba, Drift While You’re Sleeping
Encore: Gumbo, Slave to the Traffic Light
Phish | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 4/20/22 | Photos: Andrew Blackstein
Phish – “Gumbo”, “Slave to the Traffic Light” – 4/20/22
[Video: Trove Mens Provisions Rescue Squad]
Phish – “Strange Design” – 4/20/22
[Video: kembra allen]
Phish – “The Moma Dance” – 4/20/22
Phish – “Down With Disease” – 4/20/22
[Video: Richard Wolf]
Phish – “The Howling” > “Twist” – 4/20/22