Having taken most of December (besides New Year’s Eve shows in Chicago) and the first half of January off, Umphrey’s McGee was well-rested and ready to rock The National last weekend, exhibiting a energetic and jam intensive performance to commemorate their 19th anniversary as band.
Friday’s first set started with Umphrey’s stretching their legs, going from the crunchy “Andy’s Last Beer,” into “Mantis Ghetts>Mantis” and finally “Thin Air,” which saw guitarist Jake Cinninger unearth a smooth, jazzy guitar solo, as well as Joel Cummins taking the spotlight early on for some extended improvisation. They finished the set with an old school “Slacker” and a bit of banter from Brendan Bayliss, saying “Thank you all, we have to take a short break but we will be back in a minute. Joel has to book some flight tickets.”
While Umphrey’s covers have always been impressive, the second set opener of Pink Floyd’s “In The Flesh” into “Another Brick in the Wall (part 1),” which then continued into the UM original “Ringo,” was simply amazing to behold. Clocking in at almost 25 minutes, featuring Cinninger and Bayliss trading vocals throughout a tightly wound “Brick in the Wall” jam, and solos from almost everybody, this was very clearly the centerpiece of the night. The energy kept going straight through the rest of the set, especially with “The Triple Wide,” which showed a more electronic, almost Jon “Barber” Gutwillig side to Cinninger. The night ended with “Glory” into “Kid Charlemagne,” leaving everyone stoked, exhausted, and drooling for more.
On the first five songs of Saturday night, starting with “Conduit” and ending with “Wife Soup,” the playing was heavy, fast, and accurate. A 17-minute “Nemo” gave both the crowd and the band a break to breath and enjoy the night, but Umphrey’s McGee immediately got back into it on “Prowler.” “Speak Up” showed hints of what was to come in the second set, leaving plenty of room for improvisation, while the set-ender “Live and Let Die” left the band with a perfect four-out-of-four cover record for the night.
For a lot of Umphrey’s fans, what makes them so interesting is their ability to venture from metal-flavored hard rock to deep, disorienting improvisation, to house and electronic-inspired dance grooves, and everywhere in between. Between the second set’s “The Linear,” until “Mail Package” near the end of the night, they covered all of those bases and more. Cummins was mind-bendingly dissonant on “Linear,” and the “JaJunk>Mail Package” combo was not easily forgotten. “Package” also gave bassist Ryan Stasik and percussionist Andy Farag plenty of space to build the groove. “Women and Wine Song,” which has been somewhat of a rarity over the last few years, showed no rust from both the band or the crowd, which sang along to every word.
After an obligatory “We will see you all at the Norva in May, and then Lockn” Bayless and company finished out the night with “Phil’s Farm,” fittingly ending their 19th year anniversary with what he referred to as “a real old one.” The folk-inspired jam was eaten up by the crowd, with everybody stomping away whatever energy they had left. Cummins and Cinninger each took the second half of the encore as an opportunity to squeeze one more solo out of the night.
Friday 1/20 Setlist
Set 1: Noise> Andy’s Last Beer,Mantis Ghetts>Mantis> Thin Air, Draconian , 13 Days, Slacker
Set 2: In The Flesh>Another Brick in the Wall (part 1)(Pink Floyd)> Ringo, Tribute to the Spinal Shaft>The Fuzz>The Triple Wide, Final Word> Mantis; Encore: Glory> Kid Charlemagne (Steely Dan)
Saturday 1/21 Setlist
Set 1: Conduit > Walletsworth, Nemo, Prowler> Wife Soup, Speak Up> Live and Let Die (Wings)
Set 2: The Crooked One> Make It Right, Linear> Educated Guess, JaJunk>Mail Package, The Fussy Dutchman, Women and Wine Song> JaJunk; Encore: Phil’s Farm