Umphrey’s McGee wasted little energy, impressing fans at the Fox Theater in Oakland, CA last night.

In one of those lightning-in-a-bottle type performances, where every path had a purpose and every journey found its destination, the South Bend rockers watched their Fighting Irish advance to the Elite 8 and celebrated with the type of performance that rationalizes their overzealous following.

Under the watchful eyes of the mystical gods sitting on each side of the stage, “You Got the Wrong Guy” opened into a crisp take on the newly added, Great Gatsby funk of “Speak Up.”

The set then sank its teeth, peeling open a nuclear “JaJunk,” that featured a Jazz Odyssey improv section that orbited the sun and unexpectedly landed with “Hajimemashite.”

Umphrey’s kept the heavy-hitters coming with an uplifting and mind-melting “Higgins.” Whenever the band dissected the sonic possibilities of their originals, throughout the night, they traded lead position and there was never a second of lag time in following someone else’s cues.

“All In Time” was another highlight-reel example of that. This JO had dual personalities between its instrumental heartbeat and the harmonies, toying with disco grooves and Grateful Dead rock. Subtle “Divisions” teases lit the path until it developed and dissipated in a “Day Nurse” electro-funk get down.

With a nod to the moment, playing in such a historic room, Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger broke out their acoustic guitars and went through three dynamic selections. “Susanah” was played full-band for the first time in almost two years; an acoustics-only Led Zeppelin cover of “Bron-Yr-Aur” was let loose after an 879-show gap; “Gone for Good” got to test the unplugged world, before the electrics returned and a scorching “Make it Right” capped a loaded, 11-song first set.

A surgical, party-prepped “Bad Friday” on Good Friday laid the foundation for a massive “Ocean Billy.” The pendulum swung between minor and major scales and approached the uncharted waters of the jam section with overflowing tension, switching from wide-stance rock and roll to a Broken Social Scene-esque dance party.

Umphrey’s segued into the “OG” version of “Cut the Cable,” which placed Bayliss’ potent vocals on a wandering musical backdrop and rose into the mountainous end of “Ocean Billy.”

From there it was rock and roll at its finest. “In the Kitchen” had a chance to reinvent itself live for the 349th time with a righteous JO section and loosed the airwaves for “Preamble” and “Mantis.”

The thunderous crashes of “The Linear” danced into a fresh spin on the “All In Time” outro and ended the set with another piece of evidence that the band’s guitarists are musical clones.

The fist-banging delight of ZZ Top’s “Cheap Sunglasses” scorched the earth as bassist Ryan Stasik slipped on his shades, traveling into the second part of “JaJunk,” closing the show on Joel Cummins’ slamming keys and the accompanying distorted railroad rock.

Umphrey’s feeds off those give-and-take nights, a musical ping pong between opponents in a room that brings the best out of everyone standing inside it.

When the band is playing that tightly, a glance over to the handicapped section says it all. For those encouraged to sit, standing was the appealing alternate and uncontrollably dancing the natural outcome on a weekend where many celebrate a man who has risen.

It’s safe to say church was in session, and everyone at the Fox Friday night was baptized in rock.

Setlist: Umphrey’s McGee at the Fox Theater, Oakland, CA – 3/25/16

Set 1: You Got the Wrong Guy > Speak Up, JaJunk > Hajimemashite, Higgins, All In Time[1] > Day Nurse, Susanah[2], Bron-Yr-Aur[3], Gone for Good[2], Make It Right

Set 2: Bad Friday, Ocean Billy > Cut the Cable > Ocean Billy, In The Kitchen, Preamble > Mantis, The Linear > All In Time

Encore: Cheap Sunglasses > JaJunk
[1] with Divisions tease
[2] with Brendan and Jake on acoustics
[3] just Brendan and Jake, on acoustics

last Bron-Yr-Aur 04.02.2008 (879 shows)