Umphrey's McGee (April 2006)


Date of Performance: April 27 & 28, 2006
Venue: Canopy Club, Urbana, IL, US

Umphrey's McGee (photo: Danny Clinch)The last week of April meant a two-night stand at The Canopy Club for Umphrey's McGee. Hot off the tail of their new album and a smoking hot West Coast run Umphrey's returned to their stomping ground for two nights at one of their favorite venues.

Their first set opens up with their relatively new "Morning Song" which was crafted from improvised lyrics, a "Jimmy Stewart" from a September Detroit show. ("Jimmy Stewart" is Umphrey's set portion of the show for organized improvisation, if you're looking for a full description click "Jimmy Stewart" Explanation [since deleted -ed. 2015].) "Morning Song" floats over the jungle laden Canopy Club and soon drummer Kris Myers e-drums from "Morning Song" before flowing into "Hurt Bird Bath." The nearly 19 minute "HBB" has a guitarists Jake Cinninger and Brendan Bayliss careening of each other harmonizing the song smoothly before keyboardist Joel Cummins brings in some spacey sounds on his Moog keyboard and a fast jam builds around Cummins' Moog, Cinninger starts a climbing jam with Bayliss joining to harmonize, before a reggae bounce slowly goes back to the signature quick slamming harmonization in "HBB." A slow bass drone starts "#5" a stretching, bending tune that again has highlights Cinninger and Bayliss. The bouncy almost "pop" feeling "Got Your Milk(Right Here)" is quickly overshadowed by the highlight of the first set "Ringo>"Jimmy Stewart">"Ringo." The first half of "Ringo" has Cinninger slapping his hands across his strings while bassist Ryan Stasik keeps a solid, rolling feel bass line as the song climbs to the chorus. The "Jimmy Stewart" has Cummins on piano twinkling to start a solid base to build off of. Cinninger starts adding on, complimenting Cummins calming keys with pinpoint accuracy and slowly the focus shifts to Cinninger's arching notes. The last verse of "Ringo" closes out quickly and with a long bass heavy intro "Walletsworth" closes the first set.

Second set starts off with a energy to burn, with a 28-minute "Der Bluten Kat." "DBK" works the Canopy Club crowd to a frenzied pace and even has one fan stumbling on stage. He jumps up stage stumbles around and looks out at the crowd, no cheering or screaming, for a second I thought he was going to start breakdancing, but then he was quickly escorted off stage. Percussionist Andy Farag spots up with some stellar bongo work before Bayliss takes over with some classical sauce. Stasik's thumping bass line bounces back and forth between Bayliss's pulling echo effect. Bayliss shows some shredding chops as he takes his solos hard as the rest of band elevates behind him keeping up and riding to the end of "DBK." Henry Hill pops out from someone's sound clips "One day some of the kids from the neighborhood carried my mother's groceries all the way home ? you know why? It was outta respect." After the Goodfellas sound byte the jazzy crashes of "Wife Soup" comes next. Cummins again displays some great piano work on "Wife Soup" but after the first few verses, members from the opening band Kick The Cat file out for a jam that has guitarist Chris Siebold dueling with Cinninger for a fairly long jam. Siebold was playing so hard he took a little spill, as he finished up he smashed out his last few notes of the jam. A reggae bounce returns to take to the last verse of "Wife Soup." "Liquid" is next, a song of their latest album, Safety In Numbers, the version played live has a choppy, slamming ending that had Bayliss taking a few more solid solos. "Higgins" starts peaking its head slowly out of "Liquid" and soon the danced around notes echo into "Higgins" to close the second set. For an encore Paul Simon's "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" makes a rare appearance and flows smoothly into "The Bottom Half" to send the first night to a close.

After the first night, night two would have some high expectations. As the line formed around the block, people anxiously awaited the start of the sold-out Friday show. A short documentary on the making of the new album Safety In Numbers airs on the two video screens set up on each side of the stage. The documentary featured a few interviews with the band as well as with the album's artist Storm Thorgerson.

After the documentary night two started off with a crowd favorite "Partyin' Peeps." The climax of "Peeps" has Bayliss and Cinninger toe-to-toe flying up and down their fretboards. After "Peeps," "Kabump" starts slowly, Cinninger slowly drawls out the notes, slowing them down for a deep groove. The "Jimmy Stewart" that builds out of "Kabump" noodles for the majority coming together the last minute or so with a stellar climax that crashes into "Water." "Water" had Bayliss shining, complimenting with some stellar beer bottle slide, bending the notes over Cinninger's melodies. Bayliss slide work is the highlight of an otherwise average "Water." "2nd Self" is next and what was very apparent during "2nd Self" was the extra lights that lighting director Adam Budney now had, the lights all night were top notch as Budney lit up the Canopy Club. The relatively new progressive tune "Eat" comes next. "Eat" is heavily King Crimson influenced, and for any prog-fan is a must if you're looking to start listening to Umphrey's. The Beatles "Flying" is sandwiched between "Eat" and "Intentions Clear." The signature saxaphone riffs of "Intentions Clear" from the album version are taken by Cinninger on guitar and what is most evident is that there is nothing but potential for this song to become a major force once the timing gets right. "The End Of The Road" trickles out next with Cinninger on acoustic guitar for the short instrumental tune. "Bright Lights" is heavy with Cummins on the Moog and big thumping bass from Stasik to close the first set.

"The Triple Wide" starts the second set, offering a little look into the loose, fun set that would come. The techno laden "Triple Wide" has Farag popping again with some stellar bongo work, Cinninger leaves his guitar and goes to join Farag on percussion for a few minutes. Meanwhile Bayliss builds a bending, pull jam before Cinninger grabs his guitar to join in with Bayliss and gain some more energy. Cinninger then goes over to the Taurus Moog for a brief jam before he drives a very victorious feeling jam as Stasik starts fingertapping the bass line to "White Man's Moccasins." "WMM" has Stasik sliding up and down his bass while Cinninger and Bayliss harmonize the melodies flawlessly. Black Sabbath's "No More Tears" blares through the speakers next with Cummins taking the lead vocals, "Tribute To The Spinal Shaft," teased quickly before "No More Tears," but instead follows the Sabbath tune. A "Jimmy Stewart" out of "Tribute" has a Mario Brother's underworld theme running through it, for all the original Nintendo lovers like myself to enjoy. A minute or so of Snoop Dogg's "G'z and Hustlaz" leads into "The Crooked One" and "Visions of Parin" before Farag comes out from behind the percussion to sing on Frank Zappa's "Dirty Love" to close out the second set with great energy. Before the encore, soundman Kevin Browning blasts Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone" over the PA as Umphrey's finally returns for their encore of "All In Time."

Umphrey's McGee put on two stellar shows during most likely their last time playing at The Canopy Club, they were also two shows that anyone who is remotely interested in progressive rock would love hearing. If you're looking to hear these shows yourself these two shows as well as most other Umphrey's live shows can purchased at www.umlive.net, recorded live directly from the soundboard, also free mp3 podcasts are available at www.umphreys.com.

[The live shows link has been updated to reflect where UM now has those offerings, but note that I (editor) have not checked to see if the two shows referenced are, in fact, still there. Other shows are there, so... you know, the link's valid... -ed. Sep 2011]


Added: May 8th 2006
Reviewer: Pete Truba

Artist website: www.umphreys.com
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