Umphrey's McGee | Harrah's | Review

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Submitted by -Joshua Huver Fri, 03/25/2016 - 5:55 pm

Umphrey’s McGee returned to the road last night, March 24th at Harrah’s South Lake Tahoe South Shore Room inside the Stateline, NV hotel.

The vibe leading up to and surrounding the entrance of the room was atypical from the usual Umphrey’s crowd. No, the fans were for the most part the same – a mixture of road dogs, veterans and first timers – but being inside of a large casino meant the majority of the people you ran into on your way in were not part of the show.

Coming off of a sold out three-night stand last week at The Belly Up, Aspen, CO, the song selection for the Thursday night show was strong and featured plenty of open ended jamming, experimental transitions and on-the-fly adjustments into closed circuit microphones.

Opening with “Goonville” and abruptly transitioning into the start-stop intro of the fan favorite “Get In The Van”, the tone was set for a heavy show. “In The Black” returned to Nevada for the first time since the track’s debut as a new original in UMBOWL VI in Las Vegas less than a year ago.

“Tribute To The Spinal Shaft” kept stoking the fire and brimstone with interjecting funk for 15 minutes, featuring scorching leads from guitarist Jake Cinninger. There was another hard transition that led to a muddy “Ringo” intro. The standalone, also 15 minute rendition featured an eerily discombobulated first jam, even by typical “Ringo” standards.

Bass player Ryan Stasik took control of the second jam and rode the wave hard to the finish. Continuing within the darker spectrum of tones, a Local Band Does OK double feature of “Prowler” > “2nd Self” offered a breath of fresh air from the typical light and jazzy performances of the tunes.

The first set closed with another standalone heater with multiple jam sections. A major highlight of the show, an 18 minute “Utopian Fir” delivered hard, in full and on time and was appropriately reminiscent of the tall pines that surround scenic Lake Tahoe. The introduction was stretched out and expertly danced the line between hard rock (including a jam on Motley Crue’s “Looks That Kill”) and hard booty shaking funk before the track peaked and settled into the ethereal reggae groove, heavily accented by keyboardist Joel Cummins and a tease of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”.

The second set was full of treats in a Mantis sandwich of both parts of “Cemetery Walk”. Fat with originals including the 350th performance of “Phil’s Farm” since it debuted at the very first Umphrey’s McGee show, 1-21-1998 and a rare appearance of Andy “Cousin Eli” Farag stepping out from behind the perc kit and in front of the microphone for the lone cover of the evening, Frank Zappa’s “Dirty Love”.

Opening with a gentle “Cemetery Walk” piano riff from Cummins, Kris Myers’ incessant rhythm and on point drum fills carried the transition into the 16 minute milestone “Phil’s Farm” that saw plenty of inspired improvisation across the band.

A “Nemo” sandwich inside the “Cemetery Walk” sandwich placed the rarity “Dear Lord” square in the center of the set, appropriate considering Thursday marked the beginning of the Easter Weekend. Aside from appearing early on in this year in Cleveland, “Dear Lord” has been absent from the rotation since Electric Forest 2014.

A standalone “Resolution” followed next, beginning with an “Eye Of The Tiger” fake-out and also featuring a jam on The Beatles’ “Blackbird”. Guitarist Brendan Bayliss took the lead in Resolution and seemed to maintain through the end of the show, allowing Cinninger to round out the substance, taking a back seat with less intrusive fills.

“Much Obliged” saw the boys continuing the dance between hard rock and funk, eventually refusing to make up their minds and instead falling back on the shoulders of Cousin Eli (Farag) for Zappa’s “Dirty Love”, a treat that has been out of rotation since 11-6-2014’s appearance in Kalamazoo, MI – 169 shows ago.

Following Farag’s panty-dropping emcee skills, the boys launched into a “Cemetery Walk II” dance party that ensured all dropped panties stayed dropped when Bayliss joined Cummins in his keyboard kingdom. All cylinders were go, and the delicately washed lighting effects of light designer Jefferson Waful transformed into multi-colored pillars of color, spinning spotlights that left the room in a dancing frenzy to end the show.

A two song encore followed, returning to the dance between metal and funk. The hard hitting rocker “Room To Breathe”, a b-side from 2014’s Similar Skin started things off strong, but the odd timing funk of “Andy’s Last Beer” made a compelling case in response to end the evening.

Umphrey’s McGee continues westward into California for a ‘bad’ Friday show at Oakland’s Fox Theater before turning south to The Wiltern in Los Angeles.