Umphrey’s McGee Delivers A Masterful Set Of Improvisation With Joshua Redman In Portland [Review]

first_imgUmphrey’s McGee pushed on with their northeast run last night, stopping at the famed State Theater in Portland, Maine for a wild night of live music. The band continues to miss guitar player Jake Cinninger as a result of a “wicked flu” and doctor’s orders to rest up at home, however, they certainly made up for his absence with a high-octane performance that was filled with highlights. Modern jazz saxophone master Joshua Redman joined them for almost the entirety of the show, and jam starlets Spafford provided an the awesome opening set that set the tone for the evening. After a second set composed entirely of improvisation and a raucous response from the amped up audience, it’s clear that Umphrey’s McGee continues to be one of the best live bands in the game.Spafford crushed their opening set. After hitting the East Coast this week for a pair of headlining shows, they reconnected with Umphrey’s for another weekend as their supporting act. They turned in a fun performance in New Haven on Thursday night, but last night’s set at the State Theatre really saw them hit their stride with another forty-five minute, four-song performance. The band performed “In The Eyes Of Thieves”, “Galisteo’s Way”, “People”, and “Ain’t That Wrong”, and they were totally on fire throughout. Guitarist Brian Moss was locked in and showed off his impressive skills throughout the set, linking up with the rest of the band for several exciting moments and tight transitions.Umphrey’s McGee took the stage at 9:15 PM, and they immediately launched into one of their most beloved songs, “2×2”. This multi-sectional classic was only played two shows ago–Sunday night at Penn’s Peak–as the band continued to rotate their catalog unconventionally to accommodate for Cinninger’s absence. “2×2” would mark the first of three songs throughout the evening that debuted before Cinninger joined the band. The song itself was stretched to around seventeen minutes long and showcased everything that’s great about Umphrey’s McGee: tight composition, ambitious improvisation, and a true dedication to their craft. Brendan Bayliss was a revelation on guitar, shining brightly during his traditional triumphant solo at the song’s end.After the opening number, Bayliss quickly introduced Redman, who would remain on stage with the band for the remainder of the opening frame. They started up “Bad Friday,” and the crowd responded with a huge wave of excited energy to the song’s thumping beat and funky vibes. Redman wasted no time in making his presence known, harmonizing with Bayliss on the song’s verses and adding an awesome solo that quickly established his intentions for the night. The self-titled track from Umphrey’s 2004 album Anchor Drops came next, a fan-favorite that is always welcome on any night. The jazzy-vibes were the perfect launchpad for Redman’s style and provided another opportunity for him to shine.The band kept it moving with a rare cover of “When the World Is Running Down You Make the Best of What’s Still Around” by The Police. This was the highlight of the first set, as the band built up to a huge peak in the middle of the song, then, after finishing the final chorus, wound their way into “Professor Wormbog” with a slick and out-there transition. Redman continued his dominance, relishing in his featured role with inspired playing that whipped the crowd into a frenzy. The second pre-Jake song of the evening, the heartfelt “Hajimemishite,” provided a breather after the raging cover that came before it. Then, keyboardist Joel Cummins paid homage to Cinninger by taking over lead vocals in his absence on “Mail Package.” Cummins did admirably on the song, and he stepped up in general without Jake there for the evening. The crowd roared in approval as the band completed the song, and they walked off stage to prepare for their pending full set of improvisation.After a standard set break, Umphrey’s McGee returned the stage for their highly anticipated set of improv. To the excitement of everyone in the room, Redman joined them from the outset. Drummer Kris Meyers kicked things off with a funky beat, and the band quickly latched on and dropped into their first idea of the set. Bayliss would lead them into a more sinister rock section, and they weaved in and out of the ideas for a bit before keeping it funky. Redman and Bayliss would then link up for an awesome dual solo, chasing each other musically for a few minutes while building the tension masterfully. Eventually, they dropped back into the previously-played rock section, before once again falling back into the funk and staying there for a good amount of time.At around the thirteen-minute mark, Cummins took the lead with a rhythmic keyboard part that the band used to influence their next direction. Meyers and percussionist Andy Farag kept increasing the tempo, and Redman and Bayliss continued to push each other with lots of tension-and-release playing. Meyers then cut the tempo tremendously, which created tons of space for Redman to fill. Ryan Stasik is often the dark horse for MVP during these improv sets, seamlessly flowing through so many genres of music without missing a beat. It was more of the same from Stasik last night, providing a rock-solid foundation for the band to build on.Redman would walk off stage with a few minutes to spare, giving the band an opportunity to create some fresh music together, and Bayliss used this as an opportunity do try out some new lyrics with a lyrical “Jimmy Stewart” segment that brought the improvisational second set to an end. The entire second set was filled with moments of pure improvisation. It would be impossible to describe every nook and cranny of the sixty-five-minute journey, so make sure to check out full audio from the show (also embedded below) to fully experience this masterful set of music. The band wove in so many different genres of music throughout the set, adding elements of metal, progressive rock, jazz, funk, and more to the excellent improvisational effort.For the encore, Umphrey’s would leave Redman behind to perform two songs on their own. They started off with their third and final pre-Cinninger song of the evening, the fun rock tune”Much Obliged”. The old-favorite was met with a huge cheer, giving long time fans one more chance to sing along after an excellent evening of music. Then, the band moved into a spot-on cover of “Ophelia” by The Band to close the evening. The song was last performed at The Major Rager in Augusta, GA back in 2016, a gap of seventy-six shows, and it was only their seventh-ever performance of the classic song.Umphrey’s McGee threw down an incredible performance in Portland last night, and thanks to taper opsopcopolis, you can listen to full, high-quality audio from the show below. Umphrey’s McGee, Joshua Redman, and Spafford continue their run through the Northeast this evening with a show at the Palace Theatre in Albany, NY.Umphrey’s McGee | State Theater | Portland, ME | 1/27/2017Set 1: 2×2[1], Bad Friday[2], Anchor Drops[2], When the World Is Running Down You Make the Best of What’s Still Around[2] > Professor Wormbog[2], Hajimemashite[2], Mail Package[3]Set 2: Chapter 11[2] > Chapter 12[2] > Chapter 13[2] > Chapter 14[2] > Chapter 15[2] > Chapter 16[2] > Chapter 17[2] > Chapter 18[2] > Chapter 19[2], Chapter 20[4] > Chapter 21Encore: Much Obliged > Ophelia[1] with Feels So Good (Chuck Mangione) teases[2] with Joshua Redman on saxophone[3] with Joshua Redman on saxophone and Joel on vocals[4] “Jimmy Stewart” with lyricsNotes:entire show without Jakethe second set was completely improvised[setlist courtesy of allthings.umphreys.com]last_img read more