The Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo, MI hosted an electric Umphrey’s McGee concert last night. The arena was absolutely packed. Yes, the arena. The home of a minor league hockey team, the ice arena was a different experience for fans of the band as this is one of the bigger non-festival or holiday shows the band has played. Furthermore, it was very special for some of the band members as some of them grew up in the area. Bassist Ryan Stasik mentioned how much time he spent in the penalty box of the rink, only 30 feet away from where he was playing bass. The show was amazing, and Umphrey’s definitely felt as well as provided the love.
TAUK’s opening set was superb. They played an hour set that ended with an amazing “Mindshift.” They probably won over a ton of new fans at the arena.
Next, Umphrey’s took the stage, opening up with a nice “Bathing Digits” into “Miss Tinkle’s Overture.” They then went into a stand-alone 16 minute version of “Divisions”, featuring two jams. It was a rather unexpected position for the tune. In typically goofy Umphrey’s fashion, they then brought up the champion of their fantasy football league to present her with a trophy. Lizzy! Or Libby? Congrats! If you are reading this, please contact me, I could use your help to win my fantasy league next year.
Sit-ins can always bring new life to music. Branford Marsalis’s sit-ins with the Grateful Dead became absolutely legendary. Eric Pooley wrote about that adventure from March 1990 in Nassau, and what he said can be applicable in the present when saxophonist Joshua Redman sat-in with Umphrey’s McGee in Kalamazoo last night. “The entire band seemed galvanized by Redman’s presence, and the crowd- even those who had, like, no idea who the dude with the horn was- settled down for a night of exploration.”
They played a “Believe the Lie” that quite possibly saw the best jazzy intro and outro the song has ever seen, especially considering those two parts never get extended. “Bad Friday” sounded great with Redman too!
His most salient performance of the night came in the second set opener’s “DBK-> Amble On -> DBK.” “Der Bluten Kat” has featured sax guests many times before, but the infectious groove that he added to the song makes this version noteworthy. He then added his horn to the rarer cover of “When the World is Runnin’ You Down (You Make the Best of What’s Still Around).” At that point he exited the stage, and by that point if there was anyone in the crowd who didn’t know who “the dude with the horn was,” they did now. Bam, Joshua Redman.
The set didn’t stop with his exit though. A raucous “40s Theme” followed, replete with an awesome breakdown. Lighting director Jefferson Waful had furnished amazing light all night, but during the breakdown in 40s he put some visuals of what appeared to be spinning flowers on the backdrop. The crowd went nuts. The band got the crowd clapping too, and the crowd deserves to be recognized as doing a fairly good job of clapping loudly and entering early on the fourth beat. The clapping eventually led to a magnificent Bayliss solo.
An epic “All in Time” closed the set. They sandwiched “Gravity’s Real” in there as well, a tune that has only been played one time before at an UMBowl. Drummer Kris Myers took some time to encapsulate the crowd with a mesmerizing drum solo. Watching and listening to him go, clearly hearing his jazz training in every corner of the solo, I felt like I was watching the last scene from Whiplash. The All in Time was simply smoking.
A double encore was realized with a standard “Puppet String” and a rousing cover of Bob Seger’s “Hollywood Nights.” Umphrey’s couldn’t have ended this short 5-night run of Midwest shows any better. Having TAUK open and Joshua Redman join them for this journey, the rest of the tour will only get better.
Setlist: TAUK at The Wings Event Center, Kalamazoo, MI – 1/30/16
The Drop, In The Basement Of The Alamo, Rainwalk, Dead Signal, When In Doubt, Eleanor Rigby, Mindshift
Setlist: Umphrey’s McGee at The Wings Event Center, Kalamazoo, MI – 1/30/16
Set One: Bathing Digits > Miss Tinkle’s Overture, Divisions, Loose Ends, Believe the Lie , Bad Friday , Wizard Burial Ground
Set Two: Der Bluten Kat > Amble On > Der Bluten Kat , When the World Is Running Down You Make the Best of What’s Still Around , 40’s Theme, All In Time, Gravity’s Real, All In Time 
Encore: Puppet Strings, Hollywood Nights
 with Joshua Redman on Saxophone  with Joshua Redman on Saxophone, Triple Wide tease with Spirit of the Radio and YYZ teases
Check out the full gallery of Kristine Condon’s photos below: