Jam quartet Phish returned to Madison Square Garden on April 21st for the second night of a four-night rescheduled run at the famed New York, NY arena. After a slower first night, Phish was ready to let loose and delivered a great show highlighted by some relative rarities and plenty of fan favorite song selections.
At just about every Phish show I’ve ever been to, the band will start the concert by silently walking on stage and playing the predetermined opening song to much anticipation. Not so, tonight, as guitarist Trey Anastasio chuckled to himself and dedicated the song to a first-time attendee. Apparently, this was the first time that the legendary Suzy Greenberg was in attendance at a Phish show. After the banter, the band naturally burst out of the gate with a rousing “Suzy Greenberg” that was all smiles. Drummer Jon Fishman played at the lyrics with his pre-chorus outbursts: “Suzy, are you a neurologist?” “Oh the old forgot my name trick? The oldest one in the book, Suzy!” Musically, it was Page McConnell that stole the number with some fine work on the Yamaha grand piano. At the end, Trey thanked Suzy for everything—presumably for being a good sport about her song.
Next up was “46 Days”, driven by the funky bass playing of Mike Gordon. This version had a soaring jam that felt close to lifting into the double-digit-minutes realm, but the band kept things short and sweet. “Plasma”, too, broke into an ethereal jam section but did not venture into longer, exploratory territory.
The first surprise of the set, and really of the run, came next in the form of “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday”. The title track of Trey’s senior thesis at Goddard College has only been played seven times in the 3.0 era. Unlike the last performance from fall 2021, which was atypical due to its “TMWSIY” > “Avenu Malkanu” > “Weekapaug Groove” structure, this version was played in its standard format. Perhaps it was included as a nod to those celebrating Passover. Whatever the motivation, it was well received in the middle of the first frame.
Next up was “Wolfman’s Brother”—the lighthearted and punchy rocker turned MSG into an all out dance party. Trey got the jam started with a crunchy, synth-wah tone to counter with Mike’s bass slaps, settling into a pocket funk groove that stretched out and kept building energy until its whirlwind conclusion.
Phish continued the set with “Esther”, unexpectedly calling on some of its earliest compositions despite staying mostly in the lines on night one. The mysterious Junta number is also a relative 3.0-era rarity (11 times played).
While “Esther” may have been crossed off of some “never-seen” lists in the Garden, it was the next song, “Ghost”, that served as a standout set one moment. The jam started in a funky, rhythmic space before drifting into a lighter, spacier segment and ultimately settling into a raw, powerful coda. “Ghost” closed out the first set, leading fans into the break on a high note.
Phish – “Ghost” – 4/21/22
Some 40 minutes later, Phish returned to the stage and opened set two with an energetic take on “Chalk Dust Torture”. This was an extended and exploratory jam session with Trey as captain, winding through melodic exchanges before dropping into a funky loose rhythm that gave way into another fan favorite, “Tweezer”. Phish took no time transitioning from the song’s composed sections to a groovy jam. Again it was Trey who captained the jam, leading the band into a brighter, melodic section that peaked blissfully.
When the jam came to a natural conclusion, it was Fishman who tapped out the rhythm for a Phish setlist staple, “2001”. The first cover of the run was played adeptly, with special mention to Chris Kuroda’s work on the lighting that added expertly to the song’s cool funk jams and high-intensity melodic peaks. The second jam of the song contained a noteworthy “Twist” tease with some call-and-response wooing from the crowd.
The second half of the second set mostly stayed in the lines, with the band delivering well-played but non-exploratory takes on a number of fan favorites. This run started with a high energy version of “Maze” and a slick and bluesy take on the Ghosts of the Forest tune “About to Run”. Two older songs followed in “The Mango Song” and “Harry Hood”, both lighthearted and upbeat numbers to keep the crowd’s energy flowing.
After once again reminding us that we can, indeed, feel good about Hood, Phish jumped into a laid back “Character Zero” that was poised to assume its traditional role as a second set closer. And, while it ultimately did so, this version launched into a funky jam that saw Phish segue into a bona fide “Tweezer” jam before dropping into the ending of “Zero”.
Finally, Phish returned to close out night two with an encore that began with the second Ghosts of the Forest song of the show, “A Life Beyond the Dream”. The slow and soulful ballad gave way to the traditional “Tweezer”-containing-show closer, “Tweezer Reprise”. The high energy rocker never fails to put an exclamation point at the end of a performance.
On night two, Phish laid down a fun performance with some great song selections that ramped up the energy of the run heading to the halfway mark. The band will return tonight for the third night of the four night stand, with plans to play three sets as a make-up for the New Year’s Eve show that the band had intended to play four months ago. Stay tuned for more coverage from the run, and see the full setlist below.
Setlist [via phish.net]: Phish | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 4/21/22
Set One: Suzy Greenberg > 46 Days, Plasma, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Wolfman’s Brother, Esther, Ghost
Set Two: Chalk Dust Torture -> Tweezer > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Maze, About to Run, The Mango Song > Harry Hood > Character Zero -> Tweezer -> Character Zero
Encore: A Life Beyond The Dream, Tweezer Reprise
 Dedicated to the “hero of the song,” Suzy Greenberg, who was attending her first Phish show
Phish – “2001” – 4/21/22
Phish – “Chalkdust Torture Jam”, “Tweezer” – 4/21/22
Phish – “A Life Beyond a Dream” – 4/21/22
Phish – “Tweezer Reprise” – 4/21/22
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