Download this show now!
Words by Cal Roach :: Images by Chris Monson
Umphrey's McGee :: 11.03.06 :: Barrymore Theatre :: Madison, WI
The Umphrey's McGee buzz continues to grow steadily as the band makes all the requisite festival stops, jams with the right guests, and plays strange covers, but it's clear from the beginning of Night Two at the Barrymore Theatre that the group's fan base is immersed in its mythology. The crowd cheers excitedly in anticipation and not just in appreciation. It's a testament to the band's growing legend and prowess, and while the scene is currently inundated with talented noodly guitar solos, only the truly unique groups can generate this kind of devotion.
The show began in fairly typical fashion, really hitting stride when the first "Jimmy Stewart" of the night faded into "Walletsworth," which built and peaked nicely. "Intentions Clear" followed, displaying evidence that lead guitarist Brendan Bayliss may have picked up a thing or two from hanging out with guitar-shredder Buckethead. Still, the electric solos stood out from the rest of the instruments, failing to create a true group surge. The highlight of the first set was the acoustic guitar interlude of "End of the Road," "The Girl Is Mine" (featuring Jane's Addiction's "Jane Says" sandwiched inside), and "August," which began with acoustic guitars and finished with some terrific mayhem by the band as a whole. While Bayliss's electric guitar work is often blatantly derivative, his acoustic lead work is all his own, and the interplay between Jake Cinninger's guitar and his own on this night was often breath-taking in its synchronicity. The acoustic jams took on great heights and developed thick tension without relying on drone. Very impressive stuff.
The set closed with "August" bleeding beautifully into "Out of Order," which showcased Joel Cummins's organ work to increasingly proggy effect, almost channeling Rick Wakeman at times. However, UM's true prog inspiration has to be King Crimson; no other band in recent memory rides the line between complex composition and melodic improv so effectively, interspersing elements of jazz and metal into a classically intricate framework. As a whole, the first set had some good, fluid segues, but nothing rhythmically seamless. There were no jams that swirled into outer space; yet there were concise pinnacles without a wasted note. It was economical and intense.
Cinninger & Bayliss
Set II opened with the Rush-esque precision of "All in Time," which alternately bubbled and rocked before settling into a funk groove. It was interesting, but the genre-jumping began to feel a tad over-calculated. Eventually, as the flow swelled, we experienced some truly unique UM energy as "Jimmy Stewart" began with a 'whiteboy reggae' vibe but fulfilled its function as the perfect segue vehicle.
Later on, "Wife Soup" built to a metallic climax as Bayliss finally busted out some truly raging electric guitar. While most jam bands only acknowledge metal in a reactionary sense, as if metal were the yang to their mellow yin, UM actually provides some symbiosis, embracing the art whole-heartedly.
What followed was a singular exercise in proactive group consciousness. No less than five people around me simultaneously started whispering about "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" as "Ringo" melted into ambience, and soon the Pink Floyd classic duly materialized providing room for guest saxophonist Kevin Sinclair to serve as proverbial icing on the cake. The band eased back into "Ringo" to close the fantastic set.
The encores were a blistering display of twin-guitar madness, showcasing the essence of UM's style, owing as much to Thin Lizzy as anything else. The two axemen fiercely picked in perfect harmony and rhythm, not really needing to make anything up. The energy of UM is much less in the improv than most of their peers. These men are composers and ensemble players, and the trick lies in the togetherness, summed up beautifully in the final acoustic encore of Led Zeppelin's "That's The Way." We don't need them to take us out into space; they show us the beauty in coming back down to Earth.
11.03.06 Barrymore Theatre, Madison, WI
Set I: Plunger, Got Your Milk (Right Here) > Jimmy Stewart > Walletsworth, Intentions Clear, End of the Road1, The Girl is Mine1 > Jane Says1 > The Girl is Mine1 > August2 > Out of Order
Set II: All in Time > Jimmy Stewart > Smell the Mitten, Wife Soup, Ringo3 > Shine on You Crazy Diamond3 > Ringo3
Encore: Prowler > Glory > All in Time, That's the Way4
1 Brendan and Jake on Acoustics
2 First Half Acoustic; 'The National Anthem Jam' (Radiohead)
3 Kevin Sinclair (God Johnson) on Tenor Saxophone
4 2nd Encore ; Only Brendan and Jake on Acoustics with Joel on Piano
Set list courtesy of PhantasyTour.com
Download this show now!
JamBase | Madison
Go See Live Music!