Umphrey’s Mcgee rock a marathon show at HOB

A review of Umphrey’s McGee at the House of Blues on April 9, 2009

, Staff Writer

Umphrey’s McGee kept us up past our bedtimes last Thursday with a marathon performance at the House of Blues. Blending jazz, prog-rock, metal, some synthy-trance effects and a boatload of percussion, Umphrey’s played two impressive sets that proved, once again, the Umphrey’s can wail. This is a jam band that listens to& Iron Maiden, and isn’t afraid to let their music show it. Indeed, at some points the show felt like a strange metal-jam brew, as if moe. were performing a tribute to Black Sabbath. There were plenty of ethereal jams and lengthy guitar solos, but Umphrey’s performance was more than just a jam session.&

Opening with “Nemo” and quickly transitioning to “Ringo” and “Turn and Run”, Umphrey’s wove the songs together and detoured into lengthy jams that would build slowly on the backs of the guitars of Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger, who stood at opposite sides of the stage, watching the other intently, communicating the next directive using only their instruments and the occasional facial tick. It’s hard not to be impressed by the exceptional talent these men possess, even if you’re not into noodle music.&

It’s easy to dismiss a band like Umphrey’s McGee as just another jam band for hippies and trustafarians. While it’s true that Umphrey’s career took off after their first appearance at the first Bonnaroo, but they’ve always been more than a bunch of noodlers, and it appears that fans are catching on. Granted, there were a few dreadlocked scuzzbuckets dancing around and sneaking puffs on joints under cover of the crowd, but it wasn’t the full-blown tie-dye crowd I expected. Maybe the wookies haven’t come out of hibernation yet.&

There were few breaks during the performance, with most songs starting up before the last seemed truly finished. At points, you wouldn’t notice they were playing a new song until two minutes after they’d started. Umphrey’s has such a sense of communication between its members that they can transition from one song to the next flawlessly, without even looking at each other. Every complicated rhythm, every key change was hit flawlessly and simultaneously by each man onstage.&

After closing the first set with “Mulche’s Odyssey” the band took a short break and returned to the stage, teasing with openings to “Nothing Too Fancy” and Pink Floyd’s “Breathe” before jumping into the upbeat, disco jam “Bright Lights, Big City” and the mellower “Push the Pig”, both live standards. “Bright Lights”, with its catchy beat and chorus, was a perfect choice to begin the second set and got everyone on their feet and back into the groove of things. Highlights from their new album, Mantis, were “ Cemetery Walk II” and “Turn & Run”. Driven by the powerful precision of drummer Kris Myers and percussionist Andy Farag, the band showed no signs of tiring even as the concert pushed the four-hour mark.&

Umphrey’s closed their second set with “2×2” and returned for an encore jam of “Making Flippy Floppy”, finishing up at 1:30 and leaving a tired, exuberant crowd staggering into the streets, legs feeling like jelly and their feet burning from standing on concrete for so long but thrilled with witnessing a stellar talent from a band on the forferont of American music. You may not be a jam fiend tracking setlists online or swaying your greasy head around during a 20-minute guitar solo, but Umphrey’s brings a little something for everyone, and they take a long time doing it.

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