Umphrey’s McGee Heats Up Albany Fans Amidst Polar Vortex

In the midst of a polar vortex, fans of Umphrey’s McGee fought through the frigid cold to see the band take to the historic Palace Theatre stage. This is the group’s fourth performance at the Palace over the past five years, seemingly solidifying it as a staple tour stop in the northeast. Opening up the night, they had Robert Walter’s 20th Congress, featuring John Kimock and Scott Metzger.

The first set kicked off with the heavy rocker “Domino Theory,” off 2011’s Death by Stereo, setting the mood for the night with its driving metal sound. Following a type 1 jam, the group played “Got Your Milk (Right Here),” another rocking tune that hadn’t been played since the group’s Red Rocks run. Robert Walter joined the group for “Whistle Kids” from Umphrey’s recent 2018 release it’s not us. Walter took over keyboardist Joel Cummins’ Fender Rhodes for the song and led the group through the ensuing jam with Cummins by his side on the Hammond organ, raising the somewhat downtempo feel of the song into a short, but sweet prog jam. “The Linear” followed, continuing that progginess and going into the first real jam of the set, heavily featuring guitarists Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger working with each other to create atmosphere and bring the song into “White Man’s Moccasins,” a jazzy tune that let Cinninger show off his chops a bit.

“Resolution” came next, raising the tempo immensely with its uplifting sound, and leading the group into a full band tease of The Beatles’ classic “Norwegian Wood.” The jam in “Resolution” was very spacey and electronic, creating a similar feel to what they did with “The Linear” earlier in the set but adding in the electronic drum kit from drummer Kris Meyers. Myers and percussionist Andy Farag took a mini drum jam before the group brought “Resolution” into “Upward,” a bluesy ballad by Bayliss that took the energy from “Resolution” and transformed it into the peak of the segment. To close out the set, Bayliss welcomed moe. drummer Vinnie Amico to the stage for a cover of ZZ Top’s “Cheap Sunglasses,” a classic by the Texas hard rock trio.

The second set was the highlight of the night, starting off with the prog metal masterpiece “Miss Tinkle’s Overture,” which really shows how all 6 members are a well oiled machine when they need to get down and technical. “Miss Tinkle’s” led the group into a dub reggae-esque jam once they had played through the composed sections before Cinninger brought the jam back into a metal sound for the “peak” of the jam. “Walletsworth” followed, continuing the heavy sound from “Miss Tinkle’s,” but not featuring any real jam besides Cummins taking a piano solo before the last chorus. “Waiting Room” kept the heaviness going, with its driving bassline and anthemic lyrics really getting the crowd raging for its brief performance.

To kick off the best segment of the set, the band started into the familiar opening chords of “1348,” which is always a welcome sound at an Umphrey’s show. The jam in “1348” was really interesting, the group mixed a dance sound with funky guitar riffing and really kept the groove driving until they suddenly broke into “Eat,” which was just heavy guitar riffage front to back. “Maybe Someday” came next, riding the wave of heaviness from “1348” > “Eat” and launching into a heavy metal jam that wove in and out of the composed sections of the song. Ending out the set was “The Floor” back into “1348,” completing the song from earlier in the set. “The Floor” is an incredible song to see live, it’s very dramatic and Middle Eastern-sounding at points, but also brings forth some of the group’s heaviest breakdowns. This version of the song didn’t feature any jamming, but was a super tight version of the song and provided the perfect launchpad for dropping back into “1348.” The second half of “1348” was a culmination of all the energy they’d been building up throughout the second set, exploding into one last super heavy runaround of the main riff before ending the set. For the encore, the group sandwiched “Soul Food I” between two halves of “Puppet String.” The group seamlessly dropped out of the composed section of “Puppet String” into “Soul Food I,” performed the song, and then bassist Ryan Stasik dropped back into the “Puppet String” bassline and the rest of the band followed suit.

Umphrey’s McGee performed a heater of a show on Friday night, check out the photo gallery below for a taste of what the night looked like. Check back with NYSMusic for coverage of the Dookie aftershow.