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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Concert Review - Umphrey's McGee at The Beacon Theatre 1/17/14 and 1/18/14

I first saw Umphrey's McGee almost ten years ago in Baltimore. I had no clue who they were, and in fact, I thought I was seeing some band with Warren Haynes. My roommate had shown me a Gov't Mule DVD a few weeks before and for some reason, I thought that was who I was seeing. Instead, I happened upon a goofy looking bunch of musicians with a goofy name - who was this Umphrey and what of his McGee? I was immediately in awe of the band - one of the best guitarists and one of the best drummers I had ever seen, plus the rest of the band wasn't too shabby. And the diversity - from prog to reggae to metal to funk to jazz to blues, they could do it all. And their jams were unbelievable - not just guitar wank sessions with no sense of direction, but free flowing jams that they let breathe. And eventually - their jams usually breathe fire.

I had the pleasure of seeing my 24th and 25th Umphrey's McGee shows this weekend at The Beacon Theatre and they continue to blow me away. You would think they'd stop doing that, but no - no, they refuse to level off or get boring - they continually push the boundaries of improvisational rock to new levels (I don't like calling them a jam band - I much prefer improg or progressive improv.) It was also great because I was seeing Umphrey's with newcomers, which is always fun. My sister danced the night away, but my uncle and his brother had several astute observations during the course of Saturday's phenomenal show. Here are a few of them:

1. "It all comes out as one sound." Probably the tightest band I've ever heard. And they seriously read minds during the jams, as well. The jam during "1348," 1st set closer on Saturday night, was unreal.

2. "It sounds like they just play whatever mood they're in at that time." Bingo! Friday night, they played a lot of older, prog heavy tunes. Saturday, they played all of their heavy hitters, aka the songs that are ALWAYS good live and always have excellent jams. Bassist Ryan Stasik may have been the MVP of the 2 night run, leading many of their best jams.

3. "Every person on stage can play their own show and everyone would love it." It's true. The musicianship is otherworldly. 

4. "I'd like to watch this lighting guy go to work." I was able to watch Jefferson Waful on Friday. Truly amazing and almost as fun to watch as any member of the band. He improvises with the band and it comes out amazingly perfect. He is such a vital part of the band now.

5. "It doesn't even matter that the vocals aren't very good." Going to an Umphrey's show for the vocals is like going to a steakhouse and ordering chicken fingers. 

6. "It's like they're fucking with us!" My uncle's refrain throughout the show and indeed, they are. They make me laugh more times than any other band, simply because I don't know how they continue to come up with ways to blow me away. Their segues into songs are just mindblowing.

This was a great two night run by a great band playing at their absolute peak. The highlight was Saturday's 2nd set, but the first three sets of the weekend were all fantastic. 

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