Oxford, Mississippi holds a special place in the history of Umphrey’s McGee. As it was revealed last week, the band gets its name from a distant cousin of guitarist and lead singer Brendan Bayliss, a lawyer from Oxford named Humphreys McGee who he met at a family wedding. Bayliss remarked, however, that it had been almost six years since their last visit to Oxford. He apologized to the eager crowd of fans hording into The Lyric Theatre for the distance between visits, and the band proceeded to tear down the roof.
The night kicked off with a nice double instrumental intro, “Flamethrower” into “Get In The Van,” before stretching their wings on a lengthy “All In Time” that would set the tone for a night full of deep, intricate jams, and would also include a “Jimmy Stewart” with lyrics which is always a treat. After a thunderous round of applause from the crowd, Umphrey’s kicked in the funky groove of “Deeper,” which absolutely mesmerized the hyped Oxford audience with a semi-dissonant, minimalistic jam. The raging intro to “Liberty Echo” picked the pace back up and led to a sharp transition into “No Diablo.” Next came a strong take on The Police’s 1980 hit “Driven To Tears,” keeping the whole crowd bouncing on their feet, before closing out the first set with a tight “Hurt Bird Bath” that ended in a whirlwind of intertwining guitars.
After a fairly diverse first set, Umphrey’s came out strong with a groovy “The Triple Wide” that launched the crowd back into dance mode. After a quick run through “Loose Ends,” the band rocked out the opening verse of “Domino Theory” and took the crowd for a ride through another deep, atmospheric jam. Next came one of the highlights of the night in the form of “Turn & Dub,” which puts a reggae twist on their own original track “Turn & Run.” This particular version, however, included a “Bulls On Parade” (Rage Against The Machine) jam that was met with a deafening uproar from the audience. As heads banged, Umphrey’s worked their way through a tight transition into “Hourglass,” keeping the energy level up. The one and only mashup of the night followed, as the band mixed The Beatles’ “Come Together” and Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer,” before closing out a raucous second set with “Bright Lights, Big City.” The band came out for a one-song encore, letting loose on “The Floor” and leaving heads reeling and faces melted.
Needless to say, everyone in attendance was left in a frenzy of excitement. As fans piled out of The Lyric, all talking about which Umphrey’s shows they will be catching next, it is impossible to deny the impact that this incredible sextet has on crowds. Umphrey’s McGee continues to prove that they are the premier live band on the scene day in and day out, and this raging Winter Tour opener can only mean that the band is strapped in for a whirlwind of a year in 2015.
Photos by Randy Harris
Set 1: Flamethrower > Get In The Van, All In Time, Deeper, Liberty Echo > No Diablo, Driven to Tears, Hurt Bird Bath
Set 2: The Triple Wide, Loose Ends, Domino Theory, Turn & Dub > Hourglass, Come Closer, Bright Lights, Big City
Encore: The Floor
 with Bulls On Parade (Rage Against the Machine) jam and quote