, attached to 2002-12-31

Review by fhqwhgads

fhqwhgads *Disclaimer*: I wasn't in attendance for this show. 12/31/02 was an exciting night to be a phan, and just to be alive. Phish had returned after an over 2-year hiatus, and released a new album 3 weeks prior to the big night, having recorded and released the album more quickly than probably any other in their catalogue. The excitement at the opening Piper is palpable even on a recording--I prefer the soundboard officially available from LivePhish.com, whose initial offering this show was and which tradition would continue to the present day and hopefully beyond--and Piper goes hard in the paint, not something you can say about every show opener or even most show openers. The construction of the first set is somewhat old school, perhaps to ground hiatus-loyal phans in classic songs before debuting any of the new Round Room numbers--that began with the Set II opener, though I digress. The Wilson gag is really fun to listen to, with clips from Cast Away echoing through Madison Square Garden and Page's brother Steve delivering the Blat, boom, ba-diddy-diddy-boom line that always tickled my funny bone for being intentionally(?) divergent from Trey's usual delivery of it. All in good phun. Set II is most interesting to me for the debut of Waves, an essential post-hiatus (or 2.0, as some would have it) jam vehicle that became a workhorse in 2003-2004, and continues to impress since the return in 2009, with a particularly amazing version delivered at the Bethel Tech Rehearsal on 5/26/11. Seven Below was my favorite of the new songs in 2002, so I loved that it was included in a Set III with Phish outdoing themselves again with a winter-wonderland New Year's Gag that I have unfortunately only seen parts of through short clips in video retrospectives. Time Loves a Hero is busted out, and Walls of the Cave actually contains some exploration, as well as a good old San-Ho-Zay tease from Trey. Wading in the Velvet Sea is a perfectly good choice for the encore. I think everyone was glad to have our Phish back, and especially in such fine form. The 2.0 era has gone on to be alternately lauded for its commitment to jamming and derided for what some consider poor technical execution of the composed portions of some of Phish's greatest songs, musically, and I lean more towards the "Yes, jams!" side of the debate. I am retrospectively--as I was not actively following the scene during 2002-2004--very fond of the songs debuted and developed in those years, and I find 12/31/02 a beautiful opening statement to a time in Phishtory that also saw some lows. But how 'bout them highs!


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