PHISH: 12/29/97 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY essay by Phish Archivist Kevin Shapiro (12/19/06)

December 29th, 1997 Phish was the first show of Phish's first three-night stand at Madison Square Garden. Before starting the holiday tour, the band played a breakthrough 21-show tour starting November 13th in Las Vegas and ending with two nights in Albany, New York December 12th and 13th. Consistently amazing performances were the rule throughout the tour as Phishheads soaked up legendary shows from Vegas to Denver, Hampton to Worcester, Philadelphia to Michigan, Ohio to Rochester and Albany. By all accounts, the holiday tour closed an exceptional year in Phish history.

Phish had released their 6th studio album "Billy Breathes" in fall 1996. The band had been working toward a new, more textural and democratic sound leading up to their Halloween 1996 musical costume "Remain In Light". By the time they recorded "Slip Stitch and Pass" live in Germany in March, 1997, Phish had become comfortable with the sparser, funkier feel that defined their sound in the later ‘90's. They created another festival masterpiece at The Great Went that summer. Following the release of "Slip Stitch and Pass" in October, they would spend the spring of 1998 recording "Story of the Ghost" with a brief time-out to perform the four shows of the explosive and historic Island Tour. Filming for the Phish movie, "Bittersweet Motel", also began during fall 1997 and continued through the sold-out holiday tour and into 1998.

Amidst this busy background, holiday tour 1997 kicked off on December 28th in Landover, Maryland before the band settled into New York City for the remaining three gigs. The band hit the stage on the 29th with NICU > Golgi Apparatus > Crossroads. This was one of only nine Phish performances of Crossroads, Robert Johnson's devilish tale of the making of a guitar hero and the band made the most of the rare chance. A hot Cars Trucks Buses and soaring Theme From the Bottom and Fluffhead led to a set-closing Antelope, which resolved into deep funk only after multiple peaks of music and energy shook the Garden. A dark and poignant Down With Disease > David Bowie opened set two before the band paid tribute to the Blues Brothers (and Otis Redding who penned the classic) with a double Possum/I Can't Turn You Loose sandwich. A deep, telepathic Tube and a smoking, funk-filled You Enjoy Myself to close the set. The Good Times Bad Times encore unfortunately can't be included with the video for the show but it's included with the audio download. Like the other three shows from the holiday '97 tour, each of which deserves a chapter of its own, this show transcends all worldly expectations.

With beautiful flow, song selection and execution, 12/29/97 is the next show in the Live Phish Video Series, which will feature regular new releases from the Phish Archives, so stay tuned. Enjoy!


Published 19 October 2010 08:27 PM by admin

Essays by Kevin Shapiro



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