Umphrey’s McGee : Music Millennium & Roseland Theatre, Portland, OR 4/08/2006

In support of their new album Safety in Numbers, Umphrey’s McGee has hit the road to criss-cross across the U.S. as well as parts of Europe and Canada this spring. On this odyssey, they made a brief swing through Oregon to play an in store performance at Music Millennium, as well as a full two set show at the Roseland Theater. Both shows were well received, and although they were not the best Umph’s performances I have ever seen, they still contained glimpses of brilliance that show why they are one of the strongest jam-rock bands on the scene today.

The day started off with an afternoon “coffee set,” as I like to call it. Brendan Bayliss had a cold that he was fighting back, and he referenced his ailment with a “nasal sinus” version of “Nemo,” the second track off Safety In Numbers. Bayliss joked that he always messed up the lines in that one, and wondered aloud if he would ever get it right. So they wound up playing it a second time to get it perfect.

Later in the set the audience also had an opportunity to vote for the song of their choice between “Uncle Wally” and “Anchor Drops” (where Uncle won out). Even though this mini set seemed short lived, we all seemed to have enjoyed the afternoon treat. Afterwards the band graciously met their fans, and signed whatever memorabilia that was brought before them.

Fast forward about six hours to the Roseland Ballroom. The venue was not too packed, but contained a large enough crowd to fill the place with potential energy. It was up to the band to turn that energy kinetic, through some musical chemistry. I found the first set to be spotted with terrific highlights, but overall it was a little inconsistent, and the musical experiment was a bit inconclusive.

The second half of the first set did end on a high note, as the “August> Out of Order> August> The Triple Wide>”Jimmy Stewart”>Triple Wide> Nopener “was a strong medley of big tunes, especially the raging electronic sickness that was the “Triple Wide.” There were also a few jams over the course of the evening where the musicians switched instruments. At one point during “Jimmy Stewart,” Jake Cinninger joined Joel Cummins on keyboards. Later on in the show Cinninger switched duties with bassist Ryan Stasik, and laid down a sweet bass solo.

The second set continued the theme of strong moments, then other moments of general inconsistency. The “Miss Tinkle’s Overture” opener was a strong way to start the set, but much of the set got lost in long winding jams that were a little low on energy. It must be said that the “Liquid>In violation of Yes” received a big response from the crowd.

Umphrey’s did their best to make up for an average set with a terrific encore of “Jajunk>Hot for Teacher>Jajunk,” which was both rocking and hysterical. Any random Van Halen covers rarely fail to bring a chuckle, and this one may be the best of the bunch, not to mention that Cinninger seems to channel Eddie Van Halen every night that he plays. This is a band with limitless potential, and although this may have been an off night, it in no way diminishes the excitement I will feel the next time the lights go down at an Umphrey’s McGee show.

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