Let me begin by saying that this was a typical Umphrey’s McGee show. And I was really happy with that. You see, UM does something not a lot of other bands are able to do: they bring a great energy and excitement to everything they are doing. To go along with this, all of the guys in the band are at the apex of musicians on their particular instruments and this means that even when they don’t “have it” they still play incredibly well and do great things. And, with that said, they did what they typically do, which is bring the energy to the music and put on a great show.
They came out and started with their typical Intro/Preamble. This led into Mantis, which was to be a foretaste, as the album Mantis got the most play from the guys this evening. The song Mantis was solid and allowed the guys to get themselves up to speed. They then segued into Speak Up, which was also good. After the song was over, UM reminded us that they were from South Bend, IN and that this Indy show felt like a hometown show. This sentiment was carried through the show.
The guys then launched into one of my favorites, Higgins. The song is a typical UM song in that it has a complex structure that needs to be played well and tightly, but then also allows some room for the improvisation that they do so well. The execution of the song was pretty flawless and then Jake took over and absolutely melted faces with his solo. He showed then, and throughout, that he is one of the top guitarists in the “jam band” scene today as he is at the top of his game.
Next, UM worked through 1348. This is another complicated song and the guys did great. I really thought the introduction that Joel put together was fantastic, as he layered different effects together to lead into the song. It set the tone and the possibilities for what the band could be up to. The improvisation for 1348 was more rhythmic and atmospheric than the typical shredding that UM can be known for. This led into Passing. And Passing led into the fan favorite Hajimemashite. Haji was executed incredibly well, culminating with another Jake solo that showcased his incredible dexterity and ability on the guitar. This carried over as UM segued into Nothing Too Fancy, where Jake hit full face-shredding, rock star mode. And the guys ended the set by moving rather flawlessly back into Mantis. In all, it was a fantastic first set and begged the question if the band had anything left for round 2.
The second set started with The Floor, which is another “typical” UM song, that contains complex structures and room for improvisation, usually allowing for Jake to do what he does. Although, The Floor also showcased the rhythmic duo of Kris Myers and Andy Farag, who really are rhythm devils giving a real drive to the Umphrey’s repertoire.
Next, UM launched into the fan favorite Partyin’ Peeps. The band next moved to an Ocean Billy>Cut the Cable>Ocean Billy sequence. And this was probably my favorite part of the evening, as it showcased the improvisational skills of the band as a whole. All of the members of Umphrey’s McGee are incredible by themselves, but when they lock in and listen to each other and play together, they are as good as any band out there, in my very humble opinion. This was one of the instances where they did so and it got the crowd fired up.
Next the band invited the lead singer from The Main Squeeze, Corey Frye, up to help with a cover of Mark Ronson’s Daffodils. The song showcased the ability of Umphrey’s to change things up and get kind of funky. They have a lot of funk elements in their music, but here they embraced it and allowed the whole place to really get down. And Corey Frye brought it as the vocalist. It was a really well done collaboration.
After Corey left the stage, the band launched into Conduit. As they started, fireworks began to go off from Victory Field, home of the Triple A Indianapolis Indians. The fireworks went through much of the song and the guys seemed to respond, launching fireworks of their own throughout conduit. The dynamics they embraced in the various improvisational sections brought the song to a full head of steam not once, but twice. And this led into Nothing Too Fancy again.
The 40’s Theme finished the second set. This song is kind of a perfect UM song, in that it began with a country-fied introduction by Jake, the band then launched into a very funky beginning of the song, then they displayed elements of hip hop, rock, and soul. They did this over just a few minutes and no other band I can think of is able to switch gears and play these kind of genres with such finesse. This finesse actually came to a head as the guys began to improvise, led this time by Joel and his keyboards. Jake began to add some elements, but Joel was setting the tone. This allowed Brendan Bayliss to enter and really show off his guitar chops. He took a sick solo and led the guys as they built the song to the end. They took their time, but sped to the end and as they ended the song, they left everyone wanting more and more.
The encore was a cover of Live and Let Die by Wings. They added a little reggae flair to the song which was cool. They then launched back into 1348 to finish off the set and leave everyone wondering if they could make it to Louisville the next night.