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Wednesday, January 29

Review and Photos: Umphrey's McGee - Jan 18th, 2014 - The Beacon Theatre - NY, NY

Chicago based Umphrey’s McGee rolled into New York City to start off 2014 with back to back shows at the legendary Beacon Theatre. Firing on all cylinders and playing as tightly as I have ever seen them, these guys take the stage with a purpose and leave nothing but a venue full of euphoric fans behind night after night. Taking their fans on a musical journey traveling in-between intricately written songs and some of the best improvisational music you will hear today.
Saturday’s show started off as did the first night with an original debut “October Rain” a solid instrumental that is a beautiful reminder to us fans that they are constantly growing and creating as a band. The band then immediately transitions into “The Linear” and then again into my personal highlight of the first set a monster 2x2 that seemed to leave a venue full of open mouths all but drooling with what just took place. At this point in the set I find myself standing still for just a brief second I can feel the balcony shake along with the music and find myself lost for more than moment gazing off into what is one of the more amazing displays of lighting I have ever seen. Jefferson Waful paints a vibrant and ever developing visual picture that intertwines with the music making him as integral a member of the band as any other creating a complete and overall stunning live experience. The set continued with a “1348” sandwich that seemed to bring the crowd to a peak energy level and keep them there while the band blazed through “Syncopated Strangers” followed by “White Man’s Moccasins” giving the crowd a little bit of everything they have to offer. An extremely well played “In The Kitchen” falls in next as the band keeps the set going with pure energy leading back into “1348” to complete the sandwich and finish off a power packed opening set. 
Returning for the final set of their Beacon run the crowd erupts as the band dives into “All In Time” bringing the energy right back to where they left off and keeping it there for the entire 24 minutes of this opener weaving back and forth through this fan favorite and setting the overall tone for the entire second set. The band jumps right into “Resolution” including a brief “Lose Yourself” jam (Eminem) and then immediately into the opening verse of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” to then effortlessly return to “Resolution”.  Next up the band blends into “Glory” a personal favorite of mine starts off slowly ever building to a powerful and beautiful peak that seems to be not only a fan highlight but one of the many moments where the band fully connects with each and every member of the audience. As the second set burns on it is ever more obvious that the band wasn't kidding when they said this weekend would be even more fun than shows they had played here just last year which is a hard task for anyone. 
The band  then proceeds to drop what to me is the final hammer, ending what was one of the more enjoyable set’s I have seen them play recently, first with a no holds barred version of “Miss Tinkle’s Overture” playing as tightly as they have all night, all but incinerating what was left of the crowds energy. Following up with what may have been my overall highlight of the evening a hauntingly moving version of “Ocean Billy” allowing the band to deliver a touch of everything they offer all in one song reaching peaks of pure energy and then diving down to the quietest of moments, only to scream past their previous peak into a singular moment of mind numbing bliss. As they tear through the layers of this monster tune I can’t help but notice myself as well as all those around me smiling uncontrollably as to say thank you in the only way suitable as they end the show in what seems to be the perfect fashion. 
Almost immediately after the band thanks the crowd for a Great weekend the “We want the Umph” chant begins and continues until the band makes their way back on stage one final time. Not leaving the crowd waiting for long the band dives into their take on legendary Beatles song “I Am The Walrus” having as much fun with this one as the crowd especially guitarist “Jake Cinninger” who joined the crowd ripping it up while surrounded by screaming fans and looking directly at his fellow band mates from the front row. Now back on stage with the rest of his band mates they wind up the show and the opening weekend of their tour with an original “The Fussy Dutchman” leaving nothing behind and closing the door on what was nothing short of a magical run in New York City. Time and time again this band finds a way to top themselves always moving forward while still finding ways to honor songs of the past creating in my humble opinion one of the best live shows you can find anywhere today. From the opening note straight thru to the house lights unfortunate reminder that the night is over these guys bring an energy and a love for their chosen profession and fans that is almost unmatchable and seems to be returned tenfold by each and every fan as they converge upon venue after venue nightly to experience what is Umphrey’s McGee.
Words: Chason Heins
Photos: Mike Geller
Umphrey's Winter/Spring Tour Dates
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