Words by: Cal Roach | Images by: Tammy Wetzel
Umphrey's McGee :: 04.24.10 :: Lincoln Hall :: Chicago, IL
The best live bands find a way to play so that any guy off the street can get sucked in, but they build a fan base with kick-downs that only obsessives will fully appreciate. Umphrey's McGee is adept at both tactics, but lately the band has been catering whole shows exclusively to the diehards. On paper, UMBowl is a test of whether four sets of gimmicks can sustain interest and musical prowess. However, as executed, it's an irresistible forum for band/audience communication that's virtually unrivaled.
The band dove into the acoustic set with "Front Porch." Next was "Hurt Bird Bath," a punishing piece for acoustic guitars (as acknowledged in the end by frontman Brendan Bayliss). There was an interlude of Led Zeppelin's "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp," which segued masterfully into the end of "Bath." "Interstate Love Song" was a surprise, with guitarist-singer Jake Cinninger belting it out in earnest. Finally, "Divisions" made the electric versions I've heard seem contrived by contrast.
Quarter Two began with a "mash-up" theme, and fans began texting furiously. The most impressive combinations were "Bowie here come the mantis" (UM's own "Mantis" atop Bowie's "Fame") and "Ocean Billy Jean." Next, "numbers, colors and shapes." The first winner, "2×2 and one by Metallica," was the most ingenious, but the most fun was "rocketman lyrical stew," where a bewildered, Bayliss just kind of spoke the words to the Elton John classic while the band meandered in the background - pure hilarity.
The third and final theme in the second quarter was "Make Us Laugh." "The #1 d@@@ in a box" started us off, and things languished a bit until my personal favorite in the set, "reggae titties & beer!!!" The band was clearly amused and hammed it up, trailing off with a fan-to-fan marriage proposal via text just prior to halftime! The mood in the hall was jolly. Even if you could somehow fail to acknowledge the skillful execution of several of these impromptu blends, only a dullard could've kept from smiling.
The third quarter proved to be the highlight of the night. A dub version of "Wife Soup" got things rolling. Both "Muffburger Sandwich" and "Muff II: The Revenge" (driven to evangelical heights via Joel Cummins' organ) made appearances to the delight of the crowd, as well as the quested-after "All Things Ninja," which was ecstatically tight, showcasing the versatility of drummer Kris Myers.
The jam of the night, by a long shot, was a funky reworking of "Der Bluten Kat" with the Talking Heads' "Girlfriend Is Better" sandwiched in the middle; one of the most ridiculous dance parties UM ever cooked up.
The fourth quarter was almost inevitably a letdown. With texts coming in from non-attendees, votes skewed toward mass-consumption, with more unusual and challenging options getting beat out by predictable fare. The potential disjointedness maxed out, but this was the first-ever attempt at this experiment, and it was anything but dull or sloppy. Nobody complained about set-closer "Comfortably Numb" finally giving Cinninger a chance to shred, or the encore mash-up "Land Of Wappy." By any measure, a successful night.
Umphrey's McGee UMBowl :: 04.24.10 :: Lincoln Hall :: Chicago, IL
First Quarter: Front Porch > "Jimmy Stewart" > Front Porch, Hurt Bird Bath > Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp > Hurt Bird Bath, The Weight Around, Interstate Love Song > Divisions
Second Quarter: ja junk funk > tool and jackson five > tribute to lady madonna > Bowie here come the mantis > cemetery walk this way > bathtub gin and juice > jimmy page against the machine > ocean billy jean, 2×2 and one by metallica > mr BLUE sky > square wolf in London > electronic kitchen > search four the crooked one > rocketman lyrical stew > 13 days in the life, the #1 d@@@ in a box > the bears o line > the folk prince of bel air > reggae titties & beer!!!
Third Quarter: Wife Soup, Muff II: The Revenge, All Things Ninja, Red Room Disco, Muffburger Sandwich, Der Bluten Kat > Girlfriend Is Better > Der Bluten Kat
Fourth Quarter: All In Time > Africa > "techno jam" > "Brendan & Jake switch rigs," 1348 "with improv" > "funk jam" > 1348, Comfortably Numb
Overtime: Land Of Wappy
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