Last night, following the release of their new studio album it’s not us and Thursday night’s intimate BackStory event in New York, Umphrey’s McGee began their 20th anniversary run in earnest with their first of three shows at the historic Beacon Theatre.
The first of two sets kicked off in intense fashion with “There’s No Crying In Mexico” before moving into “Remind Me”, the evening’s first selection off the new album. The track continued the wild, heavy opening to the weekend, with a good five t0 six minutes of improv and bonus metal shredding from Jake Cinninger, blasting the Beacon instantly into orbit in a hurry.
“Anchor Drops” came next, and acted as a perfect contrast to the high-octane opening segment before slowly bleeding into the dance-funk party that is “Day Nurse”, the song’s jazz fusion and thumping dance beat mashup getting the crowd going as always. When the dance party dissipated, guitarist/vocalist Brendan Bayliss started tapping on his guitar and led the band into the older Umphrey’s classic “White Man’s Moccasins”. A progressive older favorite, “WMM” is always a welcome addition to any Umphrey’s setlist.
Another it’s not us tune that was extensively road tested prior to the album’s release, “Speak Up”, came next, the funky tune packing a punch with its syncopated chorus. The song’s jam built nicely before dropping suddenly into an aggressive version of “Mulche’s Odyssey”. One of UM’s go-to ragers, this version surely didn’t disappoint, acting as the exclamation mark on a five song sequence that anchored the first set. Finally, the set-closing “Making Flippy Floppy” saw the band welcome Israeli virtuoso jazz-fusion guitarist Oz Noy for a wild rendition of the Talking Heads classic, the song’s “Our President’s crazy, did you hear what he said?” line resonating particularly clearly the day the U.S. government was officially shut down after one under President Trump. Cinninger and Noy, both masters of musical weirdness, made for an amazing guitar duel between two of the most eccentric guitar players around.
Set two began with tried-and-true set opener “JaJunk”, which always seems to be a sign of a great set to come. One of the band’s most complex compositions, Umphrey’s often splits the song up into two parts (just like on the album Anchor Drops). The band continued that approach here, book-ending the set with turned out to be almost 19 minutes of JaJunk (10:04 for part I, 8:52 for part II).
Another older tune, “Push The Pig”, followed. “Push The Pig” is a fan-favorite that never made it on to an album, but is considered one of the core songs in the band’s catalog. The 12-minute version featured some great synth action from Joel Cummins and a cameo from Cinninger on keys, as well as a jam on Eminem‘s “Lose Yourself” to the delight of the crowd. “Looks”, the recently-debuted industrial track from the new album got the call next (following its performance at The Cutting Room on Thursday), once again showcasing Jake’s impressive metal-tinged chops.
“Hurt Bird Bath” offered another progressive multi-sectional classic. Umphrey’s took this song deep for a 19-minute version with plenty of improvisation throughout. Another fan-favorite, “2nd Self”, came next and was followed by a groove-centered “Conduit” and the third-ever rendition of “The Silent Type” (the lead song off the new album) before the band steered back into “JaJunk” to cap the set. An uptempo “Bad Friday” sent the fans back out onto Broadway, leaving them excited but craving more as they prepare for two more nights at The Beacon this weekend.
Below, check out a gallery of photos from Friday night’s show via photographer Andrew Scott Blackstein.
SETLIST: Umphrey’s McGee | The Beacon Theatre | New York, NY | 1/19/18
Set 1: There’s No Crying In Mexico > Remind Me, Anchor Drops > Day Nurse > White Man’s Moccasins > Speak Up > Mulche’s Odyssey, Making Flippy Floppy
Set 2: JaJunk > Push the Pig, Looks, Hurt Bird Bath, 2nd Self, Conduit, The Silent Type > JaJunk
Encore: Bad Friday
 with Oz Noy on guitar and Brendan on percussion and keys
 with Jake on keys and Lose Yourself (Eminem) jam
[Cover photo: Andrew Scott Blackstein]