Umphrey's McGee is starting off 2011 with a bang, playing a four night run at the Mayan Holidaze party in Mexico, then down the East Coast, for their winter tour. January also marks the end of the Kevin Browning reign at the soundboard. Kevin's transitioning into a new role at Umph's headquarters in Chicago. He's turning over the controls to Chris Mitchell.
The show opened up with a hard-driving, rocked out Eat. After that, they dialed it back a notch and played Words, from their Safety in Numbers studio album. Next came at 15 minute jam of FF, which ended with an extended Ted Nugent Stranglehold tease. This was followed by Anchor Drops, then one of my favorites, 1348. I love this tune for its tempo changes. It's almost like listening to three songs. Then, when they throw in a Jimmy Stewart, you get an additional dimension. The first set ended with Slacker.
After a set break which seemed perfectly timed to struggle to the bar and get a beer, then get back into position, they opened Set II with another rocker, Wizard Burial Ground. Next, they played the Steely Dan song, Hey Nineteen, which started out with a little ragtime styled intro. Brendan really has the perfect voice for Steely Dan covers. Woven into Hey Nineteen, along with the alternate lyrics referring to Baltimore, were Bright Lights, Midnight Hour and Funky Town teases. The second set progressed, moving into The Linear then Phil's Farm, which morphed into a jam based on John Coltrane's song, A Love Supreme. This segued into Blue Echo, then back into Phil's Farm. The second set closed out with Bright Lights, Big City. The encore was 40's Theme.
It was a great show, very energetic, but anyone that knows Umphrey's, knows that high energy is a condition sine qua non. Unfortunately, it was a school night, and I had an early flight to catch, heading back to Dallas, so I couldn't attend the after party, featuring Wade Willis (Wyllys) and Zac Lasher, formerly of U-Melt.
After Baltimore, Umphrey's McGee is performing a sold out show at the Brooklyn Bowl, a very intimate venue in New York City that doubles as a working bowling alley. Before you know it, the Summer Music Festivals will begin, and certainly Umphrey's will be a big part of that.