Umphrey’s McGee came back to New York this past weekend to celebrate “15 years of Facemelting”, with a Friday night spectacle at The Beacon Theatre. What this means exactly is that fifteen years ago at the University of Notre Dame Brendan Bayliss, Ryan Stasik, Joel Cummins, and former drummer Mike Mirro formed Umphrey’s McGee and played their very first show at Bridget McGuire’s Filling Station in South Bend, Indiana. The rest is history, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating this weekend for months.
After starting this tour on fire in Buffalo and Syracuse the boys came down to the city for the heavily anticipated show at the largest (and most beautiful) venue they have played in New York City, The Beacon Theatre. Walking into this place, one cannot help but look up at the majesty that is the Beacon Theatre. The crowd was pretty diverse for an Umphrey’s show, but everyone seemed ready and waiting to get “Waful’d” in anticipation of what this show would have in store. After an intro of “Leave Me Las Vegas”, Jake immediately started the rock party vibe with a great “40′s Theme”. “Conduit” came next, and although this song hits some criticism among fans, I’ve always enjoyed it and this one even included some great additions. After chasing it for 25 shows, I finally got a “Roulette”. Besides it eluding me, it has always been a favorite that many fans were excited to hear.
Just when I thought I couldn’t be happier, I heard the familiar intro to “Nothing Too Fancy”. If this song doesn’t force you to dance there is something very wrong; definitely a universal favorite every time and with an added Van Halen “Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love” tease the energy truly went off the chart. A wook to my right was even dancing with full T-rex arms. As the “Ocean Billy” intro slowed the pace down his arms extended and the crowd went into a deep trance. Twenty minutes and some funky jams later my set was made. As their first cover of the night, the boys chose “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” by Radiohead. Admittedly a bit out of place, but covered perfectly. Just when everyone started to calm down, they ended the set with “Plunger” and brought it right back to rock. This left everyone still raging during setbreak. Whether it was the die hard fan in front of me, the kid behind me who decided to jump on tour from St. Louis, or the middle age couple powdering their noses just to my right; the crowd may be diverse, but they all came to party.
Set two began with a couple of my recent favorites. “Puppet String” is definitely a favorite of the bands too since they have been playing it quite a bit. The bass is really funky and is one of the few times in which Ryan really stands out among the rest. They jammed “DBK” in there, which really just left me wanting the full thing, and I’m sure I am not alone on that one. Transitioning into “The Linear” was perfect; the clarity of Brendan’s vocals on this one really showed off the theatres speakers. “Professor Wormbog” came next, and besides feeling blessed at a near perfect show so far, you could really appreciate how they picked this set list around highlighting each member of the band at different segment in the show.
“Wappy” brought in another dance party that got the crowd prepared for what came next, that being “Example 1″ featuring Bill Evans on sax. Below there is video of the first half, but if you can get a recording do take a listen to this, do it immediately (and the rest of the set while you’re at it). I really can’t say enough just how amazing it was to be there, and up so close at that, during this. For all the cover junkies that were not so thrilled with “Fishes”, the boys brought out a showstopper. “Life During Exodus”, a Talking Heads/Bob Marley/Frank Zappa cover. Paired with the rasta-themed lights Waful presented, this made the end of the second set one for the books.
The boys came out for an encore of “Booth Love”. This got pretty funky, but the real treat was the “Puppet String” ending; this ended the show on a really high note. The energy pouring out onto the street as the show ended was unlike any Umphrey’s show I’ve been to in New York. As far as the venue, songs, and lights, it was as near to a perfect show as you can get. And the lights were magnificent, though this goes without saying when Waful is running the show. The music always stands on its own and then some, but those lights have made some instant fans. The only thing could be considered less than perfect was that the Brooklyn Lager sold out almost immediately; and even that is reaching. Though not at all Umphrey’s fault, they more then made up for this two days later with further celebration of their 15th anniversary at Brooklyn Bowl. Coverage of Brooklyn Bowl will follow shortly.
01.18.2013 Beacon Theatre, New York, NY, USA
Set 1: Leave Me Las Vegas > 40′s Theme, Conduit, Roulette, Nothing Too Fancy > Ocean Billy, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, Plunger
Set 2: Puppet String -> The Linear > Professor Wormbog, Wappy Sprayberry > Example 1, Life During Exodus
Encore: Booth Love -> Puppet String
 with Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love (Van Halen) teases; unfinished
 with Der Bluten Kat jam
 with Exodus (Bob Marley) teases and Theresa jam
 with Bill Evans on saxophone
 with Jake on keys
“Example 1″ featuring Bill Evans: