By: Brian Heisler
In their second release of the year and first official live release since 2003's Local Band Does Oklahoma, Umphrey's McGee went to Indianapolis, not far from its original stomping grounds of South Bend, IN, to put a piece evolution into stone. Live At The Murat (SCI Fidelity) is a current snapshot and perhaps the launching phase of the next phase in Umphrey's McGee's journey.
The band today is seamless on all fronts, impressing crowds across the country in clubs, larger venues and festivals, something perfectly evident on this live set. All the favorite pieces from a night with Umph's are apparent here and the album is comprised of largely unreleased material. The beginning of the album could be easily confused for the Eagles' "Hotel California" with its light, playful acoustic feel accompanied by percussion, but make no mistake, once Brendan Bayliss hits that first chord of "In The Kitchen" things instantly transform into a classic evening with Umphrey's McGee. Two unique extended jams follow, flowing from acoustic spatterings between Bayliss and Jake Cinninger into a jazz jam backed by Kris Myers' smooth ghost notes on the snare drum. While Mike Mirro's days behind the drums absolutely laid the groundwork for everything Umphrey's, Myers has continually proven to be that special element that pushes the band to another level.
Joel Cummins' keys bring the jam back on "In the Kitchen" and reveals for the first time the crowd's chanting cues provided by the band. "The Fuzz," which comments on escaping the police, is the first unreleased track. At the actual show, "The Fuzz" was sandwiched inside Umphrey's classic "Nothing Too Fancy" but here it surprisingly segues into "Nothing to Fancy." The entire album was seemingly constructed with no regard to setlist order on the two nights the music was recorded, though most of the tracks on the first disc are from night one and the tracks on the second disc from night two.
"Hajimemashite" is possibly the most powerful ballad on the recording, displaying their lighter side while building into a full sound with Bayliss belting the vocals in conquering fashion and Cinninger cutting blissful, signature lead guitar lines. This is the point ath the show when fists are raised in the air, heads cocked back to face the ceiling in exhausting release and the crowd is bouncing, lost in emotion. The rough, funky riffs of "Ringo" surround "Hajimemashite" in bookends to keep heads bobbing.
While both discs are loaded with jams, disc two contains more extended tracks. "The Triple Wide," a nearly 12-minute dance cut, accentuates the electronic side of Umphrey's. "Angular Momentum," which was originally part of a structured jam from "Ocean Billy," appears as an entirely new track that "sound caresser" Kevin Browning fused in the studio with prompted chanting from the crowd. An old school favorite in "White Man's Moccasins" adds melody and "Padgett's Profile" closes with a heavy instrumental.
What's apparent on this live album that hasn't been entirely obvious on previous studio works is Umphrey's McGee is and always has been a melting pot of personalities and highly talented musicians. As Frank Zappa warned, Umphrey's never take themselves too seriously, choosing to live in the moment and grab the last laugh. Much of the band's humorous banter is excluded from Live at the Murat but they did include cued crowd participation such as chanting of "This album sucks." The band's versatility is constantly displayed throughout, ranging from crushing progressive rock to pushing electronic trance to melodic sing-alongs to acoustic floating. Live at the Murat shows what Umphreaks have known for years: On any given night Umphrey's McGee brings something to the table for everyone and the band does it with an all-in fervor.
JamBase | Indianapolis
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