Umphrey’s McGee Rocks Cleveland To Close Weekend In The Midwest
Ryan Storm recaps his first time seeing UM in person.
By Ryan Storm Jan 30, 2023 • 10:13 am PST
Umphrey’s McGee brought their 25th Anniversary Tour to Cleveland’s House of Blues last night for two dense and improv-heavy sets. On the final night of their Midwestern weekend, UM was coming hot off of fantastic shows in Fort Wayne, Grand Rapids and Detroit.
Beginning the night with a jammed-out “Attachments,” drummer Kris Myers asserted himself early in the jam with fluid and aggressive playing as guitarist Jake Cinninger drove the jam to a great peak.
Smoothly segueing into “Rocker Part 2” next, guitarist Brendan Bayliss and keyboardist Joel Cummins showed off strong vocal harmonies before the latter led the ensuing jam on Prophet-6 synthesizer. Funky instrumental cut “Atmosfarag” made an appearance and acted as a showcase for bassist Ryan Stasik as he dialed in deep octave and synthy tones.
A quick run through “It’s Not Your Fault” acted as a breather as the laid-back and blissful tune gave the crowd a moment to catch their breath after a series of heavy peaks. Picking the energy back up with the twists and turns of “Utopian Fir,” the intro of the song quickly transitioned into “Speak Up,” which was highlighted by a strong Cummins organ solo.
Returning to “Fir” and busting the jam wide open, Umphrey’s jumped directly into a dance-y space led once again by Cummins’ Prophet synth. As the improv progressed, the five members on stage seemed to dial into each other even more – turning to face each other instead of the audience. The excellent “Fir” jam closed with some classic UM arpeggiated darkness before the reggae-tinged ending of the song closed the first set.
Sticking directly to the clock as they are wont to do, Umphrey’s began the second set exactly half an hour later with “Ringo.” While not super long, the tight jam saw Bayliss and Cinninger locking in on some excellent dueling guitar riffs while percussionist Andy Farag began to cut through the mix with aggressive cowbell and conga playing. “New Wings” acted as a soaring bridge between songs as the band led directly into “In the Kitchen.”
The final song of the night with the lauded “JO” designation on the band’s setlist, Cinninger gave a short and melodic intro on guitar. The jam once again reached a funky and driving space, took a turn into darkness, and hit an excellent peak in classic Umphrey’s fashion. Without a second thought, the band plunged into the dark “Kula” as Cummins took the helm on his Moog Voyager synth. Having heard the keyboardist describe the Moog as his way to compete with the guitarists sonically, I was blown away by the aggressive and piercing tone that filled the venue and battled Cinninger’s searing guitar leads.
Stasik played the introduction to “Wappy Sprayberry” next, eliciting big cheers from the audience as the band wove through more intense and proggy sections. A bass-heavy dance groove and more Jake peaks had me wondering how this version could possibly not be designated as “jammed out.” Closing the set was a strong reading of “Slacker” that was highlighted by Cummins’ Mellotron work, which added a spooky texture to the ensuing jam.
Returning for the encore and dropping into a familiar riff, UM’s mashup “Bittersweet Haj” led into the ending of “In the Kitchen” to close out an excellent night in Cleveland.
Umphrey’s tour continues in Madison, Wisconsin on Thursday, February 2. A free livestream is available to nugs.net subscribers.
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Offcial audio via nugs.net
Setlist (via All Things UM)
Set One: Attachments > Rocker Part 2, Atmosfarag > It’s Not Your Fault, Utopian Fir > Speak Up > Utopian Fir
Set Two: Ringo, New Wings, In The Kitchen > Kula, Wappy Sprayberry > Slacker
Encore: Bittersweet Haj > In The Kitchen
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