Falling In Reverse-Popular Monster (Lyrics Video)
Falling In Reverse-Popular Monster (Lyrics Video)

Show Review – Phish 12/31/22 New York, NY

Gag Retrospective

It’s been two days and I’m still trying to process what happened in Madison Square Garden for Phish’s 26th New Year’s Eve concert and their 72nd at the World’s Most Famous Arena.

After three strong shows, expectations were high for the final night of the run and the buzz around gag speculation was already abundant due to the risers at the back of the stage and lack of balloons on the ceiling.

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The band walked on stage and wasted no time before jumping into the “Tweezer” we had all been expecting, eliciting a huge roar from the crowd. The quintessential Phish jam vehicle is often played on 12/29 or 12/30 – its last two NYE appearances came in 2014 an 1998.

The jam quickly followed a major modulation -> big peak formula the band (and especially Trey) enjoyed throughout the run before fading into “Halley’s Comet.” Opting not to jam this one out, Trey led a butter segue into the opening chords of “Set Your Soul Free.”

A well-played “Rift” and “Cavern” led to the first reprise of “Tweezer.” The trend of “Tweezerfests” has become especially prominent in 2022, with four of the song’s eight appearances throughout the year including multiple versions in the same show.

Cooling down briefly with a tender “Shade”, the band closed out the first set with a classic “Mike’s Song” > “I Am Hydrogen” > “Weekapaug Groove” segment. While not as jammy as the first frames on 12/29 and 12/30, the excitement was palpable throughout this show and the energy was primed for the second set.

Opting for Kasvot Vaxt rocker “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” to start off, the capacity MSG crowd sang along emphatically to the catchy lyrics before Fish kicked into the signature “2001” drumbeat.

All bets were off as 20,000 people immediately began dancing their hardest. The 10-minute funkfest was led by Page’s incredible keyboard work as he and Trey shot licks back and forth over Mike and Fish’s dance groove. Almost seeming to modulate out of the song for a brief moment during the second jam, this was definitely a version of the Deodato composition with “extra mustard.”

“Kill Devil Falls” was tapped next and we were given twelve minutes of really solid jamming, sticking to a lighthearted and relaxed motif throughout. Page once again shined here, first on Wurlitzer electric piano and then his acoustic grand as Trey wove gorgeous melodies overtop.

Yet another jamless “Mercury” (what’s up with that?!) led into the set’s second compact jammer in “Light.” Leading to a massive peak, the crowd erupted for the umpteenth time of the run as Trey’s recent practice was put on full display.

Closing the set was a trio of “Waste,” “Drift While You’re Sleeping,” and “Backwards Down the Number Line,” offering some light-hearted tunes to take us into setbreak.

While waiting for the third set to begin, many in the venue noticed that the house music consisted of song’s referencing previous NYE gags like “We Want The Funk” and “Umbrella.”

I kind of don’t really know how to describe what happened before the countdown to midnight – a singing telegram for the band noted that they approached the beginning of their 40th year and had the opportunity to make a wish, at which point Trey proclaimed that he wished he could do the last 40 years all over again.

A time machine was unveiled on stage as scenes from previous gags played on a box suspended over the stage, including a snippet of the 12/31/95 “Weekapaug,” much to the excitement of the crowd.

The wombat from 10/31/13 (unfortunately not the late Abe Vigoda) came and messed up the time machine, causing it to go haywire as the band jumped into “Ghost.” Dancers dressed as the band from past gags began to filter in and out of the stage, including Kasvot Vaxt (10/31/18), Sci-Fi Soldier (10/31/21), golfers (12/31/12), an inflatable Fish (12/31/14), Father Time (12/31/99), hot dogs (12/31/10), the Famous Mockingbird (12/31/92), and even more!

The real kicker came when the band led into “Bohemian Rhapsody,” complete with a full choir just like the 12/31/96 gag. The first appearance of the Queen cover in 850 shows, complete with Ghost lyrical changes, evolved into a huge bustout of “Jungle Boogie,” performed with a marching band like 12/31/03 – 543 shows!

A brief segment of “Wilson” was then performed with “Tom Hanks,” calling back to 12/31/02’s gag. The Hanks lookalike descended from above the stage on Trey’s 12/31/19 platform and was dressed like his clone. Pandemonium on stage continued through the countdown to 2023 as green confetti exploded from cannons positioned around the arena. Ripping directly into “Carini,” “naked dudes” emerged from the massive cake at the front of the stage (a reference to one of the many naked stage-rushers throughout Phish history) and began to dance wildly throughout the raging jam. “New York, New York,” complete with the naked dude kick line, was busted out for the first time since 12/31/97, or 771 shows.

And so ended the gag portion of Phish’s NYE show. I have no idea if what I just typed can capture the energy of the moment in any way, but it was truly special to see the band bask in the glow of such a spectacle as they celebrated the beginning of their 40th year together.

Wasting no time, the third “Tweezer” of the night gave way to a “Prince Caspian” that covered a surprising amount of ground in its sub-10 minute runtime. The energy was kept high before Fish led the band through “Crosseyed and Painless.”

The musical highlight of the set came in the ensuing “Piper.” Seemingly possessed by the demon of his younger self (or just feeling the excitement of the room), Trey unleashed a flamethrower of guitar work over the course of eight minutes, more than earning the cool-down of “A Life Beyond the Dream.” “First Tube” blew the roof off the venue one last time to close the third set.

Taking a moment to thank the entire Phish community before beginning the encore, the band played a tender “Show of Life” before finishing off the night, run, and year with “Tweezer Reprise.”

2022 Phish may not have been as mind-blowing as 2021 on the surface, but it was a year where the band took time after a career peak to decide where they are going to go next musically. Make no mistake – 40 years is not the end for Phish. They have never and will never be satisfied with the status quo and we will begin to see their 2023 power in six weeks when they return to the stage in Mexico.

Happy new year!

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