I’ve written about Red Rocks Amphitheater before and the magical feeling you get when you’re there. This visit was fun because I brought along a Red Rocks first-timer. It was great to see the look on his face when he caught his first glimpse of the famous venue. There’s so much musical history that has been made here. Playing at Red Rocks seems to be a right of passage, a “Red” Badge of Courage, so to speak. First you play as an opening act for some band, more famous and with the ability to put butts in the seats. Then you get the opportunity to headline, and you look up from the stage, between the rock walls and you see thousands of your fans. Once you’ve experienced that, I guess the next step is to start planning for your next gig there. That’s probably why you see so many artists making a stop in Morrison, CO a regular thing.
For Umphrey’s McGee, this event, Red Rocks and Blue II, was the 6th time they’ve played at Red Rocks. They drew about 5000 in the 9450 seat capacity venue, although looking up from about the 10th row where I was seated, it looked like more. The show opened with a 45 minute set by the British jazz-funk group The New Mastersounds. Next up was the reggae act, the Easy Star All-Stars. They brought their island rhythms and did some interesting covers or Pink Floyd’s, Breathe and Radiohead’s, Karma Police and the Beatles, With a Little Help from Our Friends.
At a little before 10pm, Umphrey’s took the stage, with their trademark UM Bowl Intro. This moved seamlessly into Bridgeless, then into Professor Wormbog. Next up was a new tune, Puppet Strings, which was debuted at Summer Camp a few weeks ago. An extended, 18 minute version of Hurt Bird Bath came next, then closing out the set with Deeper > Plunger > No Comment > Plunger. This brought the one hour, ten minute first set to a close.
The band took a short set break and returned after about 20 minutes, opening up the second set with another new tune, Nipple Trix, which also made its debut at Summer Camp. This was followed by a great 19 minute version of Divisions. After a long improve in the middle, Brendan Bayliss’ really gave his vocal chords a workout, belting out the final lyrics. Next, another new tune, Forks, then a smokin’ version of Peter Gabriel’s, Sledgehammer, with the help of the Easy Star All-Stars horn section. This was followed by Red Tape, from the Mantis album, Day Nurse, closing the second set with one of my favorites, Hajimemashite. The encore was a cover of Pearl Jam’s, Release, and then the end of Bridgeless, the song that began the evening.
The combination of the great music, incredible light show, perfect weather and camaraderie of thousands of friends, made Red Rocks and Blue II an event to be remembered for a long time. Umphrey’s upcoming, new album, Death by Stereo, will be released on September 13th.
Set One: UM Bowl Intro > Bridgeless > Professor Wormbog, Puppet Strings, Hurt Bird Bath, Deeper > Plunger > No Comment > Plunger
Set Two: Nipple Trix > Divisions, Forks, Sledgehammer^, Red Tape > "Jimmy Stewart" > Red Tape, Day Nurse, Hajimemashite
Encore: Release > Bridgeless