Above: Phish, Times Union Center, Albany, NY, 11/28/09. Photo by Dave Vann. © Phish 2009

Phish returned to New York’s famed Madison Square Garden for the first time since December 31, 2002 last night. The show marked the 26th anniversary of the band’s first performance and kicked off the group’s first multi-night MSG run in eleven years. In many ways, the group celebrated its anniversary by offering a classic, high-energy Phish setlist. The night opened with a run from “AC/DC Bag “ into “Chalk Dust Torture” and then a sequence that segued from “Wolfman’s Brother” into “NICU” and “Ocelot.” The band paused before offering a slightly rearranged version of the breezy Story of the Ghost ballad “Brian and Robert.” Longtime staples “Poor Heart,” “Sample in a Jar,” “The Divided Sky” and “Cavern” also appeared during the set. Before “The Divided Sky” Phish also busted out a cover of Frank Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia” for the first time since 1999. The song fell out of Phish’s regular rotation after 1994, but returned a few times in 1996, 1997 and 1999.

The group’s second set opened with a version of “Golgi Apparatus” that bled into the Joy jam “Light.” Phish has played “Light” three out of its last four shows, and the band’s understanding of the song showed as the number moved into one of the night’s most experimental jams. The improvisation eventually morphed into “Slave to the Traffic Light,” then “Tweezer” and, finally, “Joy.” “Sparkle,” “Harry Hood,” “Wading in the Velvet Sea,” “Suzy Greenberg,” “Run Like an Antelope” and the double encore of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” and “Tweezer Reprise” closed out the set. Phish will return to Madison Square Garden tonight.