By: Neil Salsich
Umphrey's McGee :: 03.27.09 :: The Pageant :: St. Louis, MO
Though Umphrey's McGee hail from Chicago (by way of South Bend, Indiana), St. Louis fans share some pride with their Midwestern heritage. The guys in Umphrey's certainly acknowledged this and graciously gave the crowd a show for the books at The Pageant in St. Louis' Delmar Loop. Though fans who have been floored by previous shows may find it hard to believe, Umphrey's just seems to be getting better and better, and the current Mantis tour is proof. Throughout the last few weeks they've taken on a ferocious run of shows, and it was clear last Friday night that the momentum is only building.
Besides their stunningly emotive and expressive light show, mastery of their respective instruments and (don't forget!) the band's eclectic catalog and impeccable execution of an ever-expanding canon of covers, arguably what keeps a UM show interesting are the constantly varying setlists. Though the traditional touring strategy of most bands is to promote the new album by concentrating the bulk of the show on new songs, Umphrey's confidently let the songs from Mantis fall where they may in their already large catalog. They treated the crowd to a mix of new material, old favorites and more than a few "Jimmy Stewarts" in between.
The band was firing on all pistons from the start, but the first set really got underway with "Walletsworth," which features a rumbling bassline that breaks forth into a melodic and mournful chorus. Though guitarist Jake Cinninger's jaw-dropping sweeps up and down the fretboard - jumping from hard rock riffing to twangy chimes to sassy, soulful fills - sometimes outshine Brendan Bayliss, he really strutted his stuff with his wah-wah work on a downright funky "Kabump." The rest of the first set featured two explosive "Jimmy Stewarts" and a "Plunger" finale. The expert work of drummer Kris Myers and percussionist Andy Farag kept the music busy and the songs moving, while bassist Ryan Stasik's fluid lines swam discreetly underneath. As much as Cinninger and Bayliss switch styles on a dime, so too does keyboardist Joel Cummins, hopping from pulsing synths to swirling organ lines to crystal clear piano work.
The set break flew by as the audience members chatted happily about what they'd just seen, trading stories of past concerts and eagerly awaiting the band's return. When the lights dimmed and the band took the stage again, the crowd roared and braced themselves for what proved to be a roller coaster of a set. When Stasik launched into the first notes of "Wappy Sprayberry" the band left earth and didn't return until their final notes at the end of the night.
Despite the brilliant performance of Umphrey's own songs, frankly, the undisputed champion of the night was their cover of "Shine on You Crazy Diamond." After the epic "Sprayberry," the crowd slowly caught on to what the band was up to. Cummins began the eerie synth swells of the Pink Floyd classic as smoke swirled through the darkening magenta light. Guys and gals looked around in blissful disbelief, screamed their approval and high-fived all around. Cinninger emptied his soul into the memorable introduction, treating the music with respect and playing the introduction note-for-note. When it came time to sing the chorus, the lights instantly turned from rich purple hues to bright white beams, illuminating the entire venue and the smiles on every face. Hundreds of fists pumped in unison as the audience belted the words along with the band. It was truly an awesome experience.
Ryan Stasik - Umphrey's McGee by Voggesser|
The band didn't let up, launching into the behemoth "Mantis" next, beginning a massive run of songs that included "Hangover" and "Resolution." Perhaps the most interesting song off the new album, "Mantis" features - as many Umphrey's songs do - what seem to be multiple songs in one, carrying the listener from one time and place to the next. Though their music can take a while to get into because much of it is so technically advanced, there are some moments that make all the listening worthwhile - moments where the music is so beautiful and inspired that the listener gets goose bumps and has to ask, "Is this really happening?"
At the apex of "Resolution," the music, powered by Myers' precise, nimble yet monstrous drum work, came crashing down and unexpectedly returned to the "Mantis" finale. An encore of "FF" into "Cemetery Walk II" capped off the evening fittingly. Though some might criticize a review that lavishes praise left and right and finds no qualms, but the show left nothing to be desired - only a yearning to experience it all over again.
03.27.09 :: The Pageant :: St. Louis, MO
Set I: 1348, The Bottom Half > Walletsworth > "Jimmy Stewart" > The Bottom Half, Kabump > Cemetery Walk, Mail Package, Plunger > "Jimmy Stewart"* > Plunger
Set II: Wappy Sprayberry > Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Preamble > Mantis > Hurt Bird Bath > Hangover, Resolution** > Mantis
Encore: FF > Cemetery Walk II
* with lyrics
** with The Triple Wide teases
For more on the Umph, check our exclusive feature/interview here.
Umphrey's McGee is on tour now, dates available here.
JamBase | Satisfied
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