After two nights at impresario Peter Shapiro‘s rock palace, The Capitol Theatre, Umphrey’s McGee moved the party to Shapiro’s beloved Williamsburg bowling alley/night club for an celebratory finale to their three-night run in New York. The two sets and encore at Brooklyn Bowl last night marked the most complete show of the weekend, which is saying something considering how impressive the band was on Friday and Saturday. Focusing on their older and most cherished material, Umphrey’s was simply on fire, showcasing the intense focus, energy, and precision for which they’re known.
Set one started off with “Conduit”, off 2011’s Death By Stereo. The medium-paced rocker was a great fit for the opening slot, allowing guitarist Jake Cinninger to show off his chops early in the frame. Cinninger’s solo breakdown evolved into an evil-sounding metal segment, with an aggressive power rock jam that built to a strong peak by the song’s end. The hair metal vibes of “Mad Love” followed, eventually fading away as the band started up the beloved instrumental “Fussy Dutchman”. Brendan Bayliss took his turn at lead guitar and ran with it, with an excellent solo the cherry on top of an excellent all-around version of the song.
Up next was “Morning Song”, one of the band’s best progressive rock originals. The version was a bona fide bullseye, turning things up in the room for band and crowd alike. As the song finished, the band harnessed that energy and unleashed a big rendition of “Hurt Bird Bath”. The multi-sectional masterpiece opened up with a bass-heavy jam, constructed with several interesting musical building blocks from bassist Ryan Stasik. The whole band synced up around this rock n’ roll vibe, allowing Cinninger to go off on a wave guitar fireworks. As the energy in the room reached a fever pitch, the band dropped back into “Hurt Bird Bath” for the second verse, and then quickly moved into the song’s second jam, marked by an out-there space funk theme. Eventually the band locked in around a part house music-part metal sonic space. Cinninger introduced some metal riffage, and the band delved into full-blown, hand signal-driven Jimmy Stewart-style improvisation. After some physical instructions from Cinninger, the band changed keys and rhythm several times before landing back on “Hurt Bird Bath” to complete the incredible rendition.
Prog-funk track “Deeper” followed up the huge first set odyssey, and Umphrey’s kept the improv going with another impressive jam. After bursting out of the funk with some heavy metal, the band settled on a drum and bass jazz fusion vibe, with a melodic peak. Out of nowhere, the band moved into a song unfamiliar to most in the crowd: “Pooh Doggie.” The ultra-rarity was played in honor of Dan Delaney, hardcore Umphrey’s McGee fan who was celebrating his 400th show (!!!) at Brooklyn Bowl last night. Kudos to Dan for the accomplishment, and thanks to him for inspiring the band’s mega-bust-out at The Bowl. The song was last performed in Dallas, TX on 11/10/2006–a mere 1180 shows ago. The rarity closed out the first set, leaving fans clamoring for more after a remarkable opening frame.
When the band emerged for their second set, dissonant and ambient sounds started to emanate from the stage. Fans with a trained ear knew that this could mean only one thing: “Nothing Too Fancy.” The electronic-leaning improvisation vehicle provided the jam of the night: a patient and meditative exploration that built into several peaks, with the entire room hanging on every note. The tension was released as Umphrey’s pulled off one of their patented “on-a-dime” transitions, building “Nothing Too Fancy” into a wild frenzy before dropping unexpectedly into “August.” A welcome sing-along, this “August” proved to be one of the nights emotional highlights. The small venue and three-night run invited some of the band’s biggest fans to attend this weekend, and the hardcores really let lose on “August.”
The down-and-dirty funk of “Mail Package” provided a much-needed breather after the intense one-two-punch set opener. Things picked back up in a huge way with “#5”, an old favorite that dates back to 2003. The progressive rock masterpiece saw drummer Kris Myers and percussionist Andy Farag offer up some tribal sounds, using his floor toms to create a pulsating rhythm. Joel Cummins eventually linked up with Myers, leaning into his organ line with gusto. The organ sound led to a 80’s rock vibe, which was fitting as the sound eventually dissolved into a slow, piano-led jam that wound its way towards a soaring dual-guitar master class from Cinninger and Cummins. The crowd was in a frenzy, and kicked into another gear when Umphrey’s landed back on the tail end of “Nothing Too Fancy,” finally finishing the version that opened the set.
The smooth rock vibes of “No Comment” kept the old school feel going, before the band eventually moved back into some more aggressive improvisation (do they ever take a song off?), with Stasik offering up some more amazing bass licks. After flowing into a call-back off “Pooh Doggie” one more time for good measure, they closed out the set with a rocking version of “The Song Remains The Same” by Led Zeppelin. Finally, for the encore, Umphrey’s continued the old favorites with a reggae-tinged version of “Slacker”, which ended up sounding something similar to “The Bed’s Too Big Without You” by The Police. Bayliss was all smiles during this final song of the run, watching with a huge grin as Cummins rocked the organ to close out their weekend in New York.
Umphrey’s McGee may be done in the New York area, but they will be back soon, with three recently-announced shows at The Beacon Theatre in January on deck for the band’s 20th-anniversary celebration. In the meantime, Umphrey’s will hit Suwanee Hulaween on Thursday before traveling to St. Paul, MN for two nights at the Palace Theatre, where the band will take a break from their usual Mashup celebration and will debut a new theme for Halloween.
Check out a full gallery of photos from Umphrey’s McGee’s Brooklyn Bowl performance below courtesy of photographer Andrew Blackstein.
You can watch a few clips from the show via Instagram below:
SETLIST: Umphrey’s McGee | Brooklyn Bowl | Brooklyn, NY | 10/22/2017
Set One: Conduit, Mad Love > Fussy Dutchman, Hurt Bird Bath, Deeper > Pooh Doggie
Set Two: Nothing Too Fancy -> August, Mail Package, #5 -> Nothing Too Fancy, No Comment > Pooh Doggie, The Song Remains The Same