Umphrey’s McGee: Live at the Murat

[rating=3.50]

The first official live release from Umphrey’s McGee—following quality “unofficial” releases like One Fat Sucka (2000) and Local Band Does OKlahoma (2003)—comes on the heels of 2006’s Safety in Numbers, a soulful, introspective studio album compiled during an emotional period for the band. Recorded in April 2007 during a two-night run at the Murat Egyptian Room in Indianapolis, this two-disc album captures the band in their natural environment: on stage.

An acoustic version of “In the Kitchen” opens the first disc, quickly leading into a pleasant, airy, String Cheese–like jam, which slowly builds to an electric section composed by keys player Joel Cummins and bassist Ryan Stasik. Eventually meandering into a short piano solo, the band then kicks back into a more emphatic ending to “In the Kitchen.” Following a standard-issue “Higgins,” the rest of the disc falls victim to some indulgent, fairly uninteresting jamming. “The Fuzz” devolves into a lazy blues jam, then segues into the ending of “Nothing Too Fancy,” which features frenetic back and forth between guitarists Jake Cinninger (who, incidentally, may be the best axe-man on the jam scene) and Brendan Bayliss. The highlight is a spirited take on the somewhat rare “Hajimemashite.”

The second disc, though occasionally weighed down by overlong guitar solos, fares better than the first, with solid renditions of fan favorites “The Triple Wide” and “Push the Pig.” The former begins abruptly with programmed drums interweaved with light-handed guitar lines, then morphs into a trancey jam à la Lotus, then shifts again into a funk-rock mode. “Angular Momentum” could be an unfinished Metallica B-side, and “Out of Order” swells to a satisfying guitar duel between Bayliss and Cinninger. “White Man’s Moccasins” is bisected by a heartfelt piano solo, and the second half of the song builds to a post-hiatus, late-era Phish jam. The disc ends with a definite rarity, “Padgett’s Profile.”

Newbies may find Live at the Murat a difficult entrée to the band, but Umphrey’s fans should be satisfied with a well-produced if uneven collection.

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