Upstate New York only gets a few doses of Umphrey’s McGee in the cold of winter, but they sure heat things up at every stop. Kicking off their three nights in Upstate was a stand-out performance at Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park. The venue was packed, more so than it was last time the Chicago prog-rockers came to town, as the word has gotten out and Umphrey’s is becoming a draw who may have outgrown their usual Capital District stomping grounds.
A “Catshot” intro built up the crowd as the six members took the stage. These instrumental intros are unique to Umphrey’s and serve as an excellent way to give the show a rolling start. Picking up a pair of Headphones (more on that in a bit) just as “Phil’s Farm” got going, the solid 15 minute rocker built off “Catshot”, with Bayliss and Cinninger hitting great peaks with start/stops that gave a jolt to the crowd as they began a night of dancing. “Miami Virtue” had Jeff Waful’s lights come alive in a dark jam before bleeding seamlessly into “Professor Wormbog”, which had some Boyz II Men acapella vocals thrown in for a curveball before returning to heavy prog funk.
Warm lights accompanied “Morning Song” alongside Bayliss’ full flex vocals amid soaring guitar peaks. And if “Phil’s Farm” was the first blow of the night, “Mantis” held the knockout punch of the first set, clocking in at a shade under 20 minutes, with a “Jimmy Stewart” section, complete with lyrics.
During the show, I had the unique experience to test out the new “Headphones and Snowcones” feature that is available all Umphrey’s shows this tour. Comfortable and easy to manage, these were quite frankly a welcome accessory to the show. Not only do you get to experience quality, soundboard sound, but the pristine audio environment that creates a 3-D experience for your ears. The sound is crystal clear, and if you have Tinnitus like I do, you can adjust the volume and prevent further damage, while keeping out that hiss that ultimately takes away from the music. The only drawback I can think of is the cost: at $40, plus refundable deposit, it might be out of budget for some, but you do get a UMLive download of the show, so it depends on your personal preferences for how you want to hear the show. Given an opportunity to try this again, I would certainly pay to hear the band sound the way it should be heard.
Opening the second set with “Miss Tinkles Overture”, Umphrey’s brought back a “Jimmy Stewart” jam with additional lyrics. The hard metal rock of Jake Cinninger and Kris Myers tore up “Tinkles”, which can serve equally well anywhere in a set, but stood out perfectly to welcome the crowd back. “Push the Pig” had a dark bass groove from Ryan Stasik, eventually leading into “Roseanna” by Toto. With Umphrey’s, you are virtually assured an 80’s cover and the rarer, the better. Looking around the venue, only the older fans seemed to know the song, mouthing some of the lyrics while the younger fans sang along only with ‘Rose-an-na!’
Although it wasn’t jammed out, “Roseanna” did melt into a full band jam that pushed into the shred-metal of “Go to Hell” and then “Der Bluten Kat”. The last time Umphrey’s was in town, “DBK” clocked in at 30 minutes. This version ended up at only 27 minutes, not including “The Fuzz” that was sandwiched in between. There is no bigger jam vehicle for Umphrey’s than a solid “DBK” and it was great to hear another fantastic version.
A second installment of ‘Hey, Remember the 80s?’ came in the second half of the encore with Kris Myers introduced as Glen Danzig (and Jake Cinninger heading behind the drum kit), as we were about to get the classic metal group’s “Mother”. Myers knows his metal and you haven’t heard a cover done with such accuracy, let alone a cover of Danzig, until you’ve heard Umphrey’s “Mother”. A hot show with electricity teeming throughout the crowd as they dispersed, fans began making plans for the weekend shows in Syracuse and Rochester, part of the luxury of Upstate New York’s proximity to great music towns.
Set 1: Catshot > Phil’s Farm, Miami Virtue > Professor Wormbog, Morning Song, Crucial Taunt, Mantis
Set 2: Miss Tinkle’s Overture, Push The Pig > Rosanna > Go To Hell, Der Bluten Kat > The Fuzz > Der Bluten Kat
Encore: The Weight Around, Mother