They took the featureless stage around 8:30 and rewarded the prompt fans with a double instrumental opener in the form of “Flamethrower” into “Get in the Van”. They came out with such bravado and energy there was no doubt it was going to be a special evening. They were clearly feeling loose and the show reflected it. They were flexing their improv chops more than usual before they arrived at “Jimmy Stewart” complete with lyrics. The band was impeccable from the first note with Brandon being very active on this evening, with only his bandmates enjoying it more than the fans in the comfortably crowded venue. The band played one gem after another especially during the mystical first set. “Driven to Tears” a phenomenal Police cover, was played to perfection. The wonderful first course ended with a spirited version of “Hurt Bird Bath”.
The second set picked up where the first left off with an explosive take on the fan favorite “The Triple Wide”. Every tune was a journey and the crowd danced with approval. “Domino Theory” even grew wings on this night as all egos were left on the bus. The next tune was a highlight and a perfect metaphor for majority of the show. Instead of their straightforward original “Turn and Run” they decided to improvise and go in a reggae direction, and the result was "Turn and Dub." It covered complex musical realms and even included a Rage against the Machine jam. This was a night the band could do no wrong and they rewarded us with the new mash-up called “Come Closer”. It mixes the Beatles “Come Together” with Nine Inch Nails classic “Closer”. It was a dominant musical achievement that pushed and transformed the crowd into frenzy. They ended the second round with the ever improving “Bright Light, Big City.” It is not usually a favorite song of mine, but on this night they could do no wrong and it won me over. They came back to a deafening round of applause because they must have forgotten to rock out the anthem “The Floor”.
If you have yet to witness this band live, do right by your soul. It will only take once and there is plenty of room on the bandwagon. They are one of a few groups in our scene that tour regularly and does not have the stink of nostalgia. Their music is happening now; they are creating history nightly while everyone else is arguing who is going to sing "Sugaree" again. They stand out as individual musicians all the while improving as a band. It is a joy to witness and they are one of the last of the first true jam-bands. Music is always about moving forward and Umphrey’s McGee manages to run me over every show.
Photos: Randy Harris
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