Sometimes a band finds the perfect song to capture the feeling of their audience. With lyrics that sting out of raw truth and careful and passionate instrumentals, you can feel the connection between the band and its faithful fans.
As Umphrey’s McGee opened their January 28 show at the Palace Theater in Albany with “Divisions,” a collective energy was felt by all in the room. “All my thoughts divided, oh. All my friends divided so. And our whole world’s divided, oh.” The timing of these words never more appropriate. “Soul embrace. We’re all the same.” The meaning never more important.
Just days before the scheduled show in New York’s capital, the band announced their lead guitarist, Jake Cinninger, would not be performing for this and several other shows due to the flu. Renowned saxophonist Joshua Redman, was already scheduled to perform. The brass added an unfamiliar yet celebrated element to the typical Umphrey’s sound. Yet, without Jake, this was not typical Umphrey’s to begin with. A sound noticeably different, but surprisingly not at all disappointing.
“Weight Around” was a masterpiece we’ve come to expect from this band, who are celebrating their 19th year together. Redman took the stage for “Gone for Good,” although he was overpowered by Brendan Bayliss’ guitar and Ryan Statsik’s thundering bass. It was unclear if this was a technical issue or due to the fact he wasn’t standing anywhere near his mic. The problem was corrected for the next song, “Higgins,” and right into “Ocean Billy” to close the first set. Although not a substitute for the lead guitar, Redman serves as a unique alternative to be showcased.
Second set was a helluva grinder to say the least. Nestled between an 18-minute “1348” and then a 3-minute finish to the song, “Intentions Clear” was the perfect song for Redman, fitting seamlessly into the groove. “Walletsworth” offered the fire and grit to bring the crowd to a roar, signaling their clear approval. Joel Cummins shone on the keys and Andy Farag delighted on percussion.
Most surprising was the “40’s Theme” accomplished without Cinninger. Bayliss eagerly took on the lyrics. Once again, although different, the song was fun and satisfying. After a brief “Kitchen,” Bayliss addresses the crowd and acknowledged the elephant in the room – Cinninger’s absence – while expressing his gratitude for his colleague’s role in the band. After an impressive drum solo by Kris Myers, a mood lifting rendition of Simple Mind’s “Don’t You Forget About Me” clearly demonstrated the band had Cinninger in their thoughts as they closed the second set.
Returning to the stage for “Resolution,” the lyrics again provided hope – “I see the road leading towards the solution we need.” Bayliss took charge on this with raw power and grace before they circled back to “In the Kitchen” to conclude the evening.
As Bayliss addressed the crowd, thanking them for helping them out, it was the fans who got all the help they needed, even if just for a few hours.
Divisions, Prowler > 2nd Self, Weight Around, Gone for Good*, Higgins*, Ocean Billy*
1348* > Jimmy Stewart > Intentions Clear* > 1348*, Walletsworth* > 40s Theme, In the Kitchen > Don’t You Forget About Me^
Resolution> In the Kitchen
* with Josh Redman on saxophone
^ Simple Minds cover