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Words by: Benji Feldheim

Umphrey’s McGee :: 02.16.07 :: The Fillmore :: San Francisco, CA

Umphrey’s McGee :: 02.16.07 by Dave Vann
2007 is shaping up to be the year when Umphrey’s McGee completely annihilate all the rules they once set for playing live. Starting in 2005 and rolling into early 2006, their sound exuded a commitment to structure and written orientations. After the Acoustic Planet tour with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones in August of ’06, Umphrey’s started playing shows with a loose list of songs rather than a firm setlist, picking selections as the show progressed. The band united the urgency of early jamming tendencies with the patience of structure, forging a more explosively unique voice and sound. Their comfort and sensitivity to the entire product has not diminished their exuberance and joy for playing live, and their continued growth is a pleasure to hear.

Jake Cinninger – Umphrey’s McGee
02.16.07 by Mike Sherry
Umphrey’s McGee returned to San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore stage with a snarl after one of their lengthier breaks in several years. They opened the first night of a two evening run with a battery of fuming metal hits. They added layers to the assault, as show veterans puzzled over whether the ferocious opening was a taste of the band’s new yet-to-be-released album, The Bottom Half. A familiar theme sprung from the heavy riffs, a reworked vamp to open up “Believe The Lie.” The upbeat stomper had a thick urgency and feel. Brendan Bayliss‘s gritty vocals added to the warm melody. The band tore through a dynamic rise during the bridge, Bayliss and Jake Cinninger‘s guitars guided the lightning with shrill high-end picking.

“Blue Echo” followed, briefly cooling things out with a synth-backed downbeat. A gentle rock build formed from the trance as Kris Myers hit hard cymbal strikes and Ryan Stasik added a high melody line to his undulating bass work. A blues shuffle brought the band back into the speedy techno version of “Echo.” “All In Time” closed the first set with Joel Cummins‘s psychotic organ prelude to the song’s chorus.

Keller Williams with Umphrey’s McGee
02.16.07 by Dave Vann
“Hurt Bird Bath,” at its most diabolical, started off the second set. Led by a machine-like Cummins piano attack and Andy Farag‘s mean conga work, things were getting dirty early. The middle section was full of evil machinations as the band made an ambient wall. The tone then got lighter until Umphrey’s went into onslaught mode and channeled Iron Maiden with polyrhythms. “Divisions” was dedicated to a loyal show-goer named Amy celebrating her 27th birthday. “Triple Wide” followed turning the rock show into a dance party. Stasik shined on this version, leading the middle jam with rippling slaps. Bayliss and Cinninger complemented the layered bass line with scratchy riffs and wails. The funk dissolved into dissonant howls before the band settled on a swift ska beat. Fittingly, “Partyin’ Peeps” continued the island levity.

“Hey guys I got some bad news,” said Bayliss. “We’ve got this friend here who wants to play, but we really don’t want him to. But, we’re friends, we gotta let him. You don’t mind if Keller Williams comes out?”

Ryan Stasik – Umphrey’s McGee
02.16.07 by Susan J. Weiand
Williams scatted things into a high spirited climax, then everything mellowed down into a conga-aided vocal jam. The smooth, complexly bright feel of “Kimble” came next. An older UM tune still retaining its shine, the band played it with a great deal of color. The set continued with the snaky riffs and growls of “Resolution.” If a song can sound sarcastic, this is it. It’s complicated without being uptight, yet the music never lets you forget how tricky it sounds. They returned to “Divisions,” a sadly honest tune about relationships changing over time that became a joyful way to close out the set.

Ending the show just as they began, Umphrey’s played an absolute monster with “Mulche’s Odyssey.” After the second verse, they took off on a devilish, thrashy romp that descended into freakish noise, finally emerging as a simple funk groove. Clearly, the time off served the band well and they’re pushing their skills as writers and live players farther all the time.

02.16.07 :: The Fillmore :: San Francisco, CA
Set I: Believe the Lie, Blue Echo > Passing > Plunger > All In Time
Set II: Hurt Bird Bath, Divisions > The Triple Wide^ > Partyin’ Peeps^^, Kimble, Resolution > Divisions
Encore: Mulche’s Odyssey
Notes: ^with Jake on keys
^^with Keller Williams on vocals; with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”

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