Review: Local Band Does OK

Umphrey’s and their crew stepped up every aspect of their game last week, playing the strongest NYE run since 2003 and providing the best production value they’ve ever had (thanks largely to new LD Jeff Waful). The band was confident, prepared and seemed incredibly at home on the large stage, which lead to some stellar performances. Joining Umphrey’s on this run was a cast of heavyweight special guests. Umphrey’s interplay with guests has always been hit or miss, but each guest spot was cohesive and productive to the overall evening.

On the 29th, Buddy proved to the youngsters why he was such an inspiration to Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and pretty much every budding guitarist that has picked up an axe since. The 30th brought Joshua Redman back into the fold on sax for the first time since 2006. From the first time he sat-in back in 2004, Redman has always had an incredible grasp of the Umphrey’s catalogue and manages to seamlessly mesh with the band every time.

Stanley Jordan, the mind-blowing jazz guitarist, also sat in on the 30th adding his manically melodic two-hand-tapping style to the mix, leading to what Ryan Stasik called “the best ‘40’s Theme’ ever.” For New Years Eve, the queen of the blues herself, Koko Taylor, brought the house down at the end of the first set. She might have needed help walking out on stage, but boy does Ms. Taylor still have pipes. To top things off, the Chicago Mass Choir joined Umphrey’s for an exuberant end to the final set.

In 2003, the band was young, eager, and looking to showcase the sudden, exponential improvement they had found with then-newcomer, Kris Myers. Those shows were triumphant, and marked the beginnings of the next phase of Umphrey’s McGee. They showed Umphrey’s was a band with legs, a band looking to get somewhere. The Auditorium theater shows of 2008 will be viewed much the same way. They are ideally a starting point for the next five years of Umphrey’s McGee, leading to further musical growth.

Mantis is just around the corner (buy it 1/20 at your local retailer), and should hopefully usher in the new, more progressive era of Umphrey’s. While always more technical and angular than many of their free-flowing peers, Umphrey’s appears to be on the horizon of blending their Beatles/Genesis-inspired pop sensibilities with their dark brand of instrumental prowess. The change couldn’t be more welcomed by this guy, as the band finally seems ready to take calculated musical steps forward as opposed to just following the muse on tangents (*cough* untz *cough*). Umphrey’s was poised and ready for the shows, and last week’s run has laid the groundwork for this band to continue to grow and mature, well beyond their hippiejamband roots.


12/31/08 Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, IL
Set I: In the Kitchen> Prowler> In the Kitchen, Nothing Too Fancy1> The Haunt> Kula> The Floor, Let the Good Times Roll2, Come to Mama2
Set II: Women Wine and Song3, Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough3 4, Partyin’ Peeps, Hurt Bird Bath, Much Obliged> Closer> Much Obliged, Bridgeless3
Set III: Wappy Sprayberry3> Auld Lang Syne3> Wappy Sprayberry> JaJunk> Higgins> JaJunk, Amazing Grace5> Glory5> Amazing Grace5> Glory5, With a Little Help From My Friends3 5 6, Wife Soup3, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For5 7
Encore: Divisions> Hangover3> Divisions

1 Unfinished
2 Koko Taylor (Vocals) & Shun Kikuta (Guitar)
3 With ‘Mad Dog’s Filthy Little Secret’ – Michael “Mad Dog” Mavridoglou (Trumpet), Chris Neal (Saxophone), Brent Sanders (Trombone)
4 First Time Played (Michael Jackson)
5 Chicago Mass Choir
6 First Time Played (The Beatles) ; The band performed the Joe Cocker arrangement
7 First Time Played (U2)

12/30/08 Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, IL
Set I: Sweetness1> August2, Wizard Burial Ground, Morning Song, Alex’s House3, Rocker Part II3, 40’s Theme4
Set II: Made To Measure3 5> Great American3 4, Bright Lights, Big City4, Ocean Billy, Der Bluten Kat3> Jimmy Stewart (w/ lyrics)3> Der Bluten Kat3
Encore: Ringo3

1 Brendan & Jake (Acoustics)
2 Brendan & Jake (Acoustics) – First Half
3 Joshua Redman (Saxophone)
4 Stanley Jordan (Guitar)
5 First Time Played (Original)

12/29/08 Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, IL
Set I: Slacker> Dump City> Slacker> Dump City, 2×2> Jimmy Stewart> 2×2, Resolution1, Intentions Clear1, Hoochie Coochie Man1 2> She’s Nineteen Years Old1 2, Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues1 2
Set II: Plunger> The Bottom Half3> Plunger> The Bottom Half, Gulf Stream> KaBump1, Hajimemashite
Encore: Mulche’s Odyssey, Scenes from an Italian Resturaunt1 4

1 Jeff Coffin (Saxophone)
2 Buddy Guy (Guitar & Vocals)
3 ‘The Triple Wide’ teases
4 Last Played 12/31/2002 (798 Shows) [all setlists via PT-UM]

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4 Responses

  1. 12/31 was one of the top musical highlights of my life and I’ve seen a lot of music! :o) Thanks for the review buddy!

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