In what is going against their traditional touring schedule, Umphrey’s McGee began a three-night run at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater last night. Having multi-night runs at the venue in three of the past five years, normally, such runs are reserved for the end of October to coincide with Halloween. Because of the timing, it felt unique to see the band at the Riverside as winter begrudgingly turned to spring. Last night, void of the usual mash-ups that grace the venue, Umphrey’s began the run with a solid concert that signaled how they will own the city for the rest of the weekend.
Earphorik opened the night. They are no stranger to the rock and roll of Umphrey’s, as Earphorik has collaborated with UM on multiple occasions, most recently this past February when Jake Cinninger and Joel Cummins joined Earphorik on stage at an official UM afterparty. Being the only show of the run with an opener, the band rewarded fans who came out early on a weekday night. They only played a couple tunes, but they displayed a huge range of genres within their slot. They brought out UM percussionist Andy “Xanadu” Farag for a song that got some extended jamming. There was a brief percussion session before a middle-eastern jam with Farag hammering away on the djembas. To finish their set, they went full metal and didn’t sound too dissimilar from the headliner band. The Umphrey’s influences were heavy on Earphorik. For an opening set they did a tremendous job.
Taking the stage and then jamming to “Bathing Digits,” the night officially popped off with a raging “Phil’s Farm” that had some short but sweet improv. “No Diablo” followed. A very surprising and unexpected first set, “Glory” was placed right in the middle of the set. Not only was it an unforeseen surprise but once the last notes faded the band took it in a direction that it rarely goes. The jamming was phenomenal. The song wandered down a path, but not without direction, before landing in “2×2.” Guitarist Brendan Bayliss’ soaring solo at the end of the song was on point.
The highlight of the first set arrived in “Blue Echo.” As the song has no vocals, it is one of the band’s improvisational vehicles, and this one delivered. Guitarist Jake Cinninger relinquished his axe to join keyboardist Joel Cummins on the keys. Not only did Cinninger join him, but he actually led the jam on his secondary instrument. Cinninger’s musicianship is unparalleled, and it was on display for the jam. The crowd noted it and gave him a loud applause upon the end of the jam. A fun “Booth Love” closed out the set.
Heavy hitters abounded in the bottom half of the show, beginning and ending with “Der Bluten Kat.” “Hurt Bird Bath” showed up in the with an “”Upward” sandwiched inside. “FF” went into “Utopian Fir” and the latter was a monster. It had some quality improvisation, and even after it returned to the reggae ending Cinninger’s guitar was just screaming with intensity. His tone sounded really good all night. They then jammed some Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’” before seguing back into “Der Bluten Kat.” Everyone knew it coming, but it was still buttery smooth. They encored with “Attachments” and ended the show. Bayliss advised the crowd to “reckless and make bad decisions” post-show. It got a laugh out of quite a few concertgoers.
The concert was easily worth the price of admission and the discomfort of the elements, as this first night of the run is a harbinger of the music yet to come over the next two nights—pure progressive rock and roll in only the unique way that Umphrey’s can provide. Check out photos from last night’s show below, courtesy of Daniel Ojeda. If you can’t make it to Milwaukee, you can make it to your couch and join the tour from there. The band is streaming tonight and tomorrow night’s shows here for all to enjoy.
Setlist: Umphrey’s McGee | Riverside Theater | Milwaukee, WI | 3/30/2017
Set One: October Rain, Phil’s Farm, No Diablo, Glory, 2×2, North Route, Blue Echo, Booth Love
Set Two: Der Bluten Kat, In the Black, Hurt Bird Bath, Upward, Hurt Bird Bath, FF, Utopian Fir, Der Bluten Kat
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