Key Club, West Hollywood, California
Umphreyâ€™s McGee returned to Los Angeles on their West Coast spring swing. They are one of the few bands that have been predicted to pick up the baton from Phish, who previously picked up the baton from the Grateful Dead. One major contributing factor that made those bands so popular was their relentless touring schedule, so I decided a repeat viewing of Umphreyâ€™s would be in order. I had enjoyed their show eight months ago in October at this same venue and was curious what this evening would have in store because their concert schedule implies that they go on tour to play music, not just to support album releases.
I was in for a treat this evening, but my enjoyment of the show was due in large part to the fact that I am open to watching talented musicians create music not just play the hits. Most people go to concerts because they know what they are going to hear from the performer. Most people go to an Umphreyâ€™s show because they donâ€™t know what they are going to hear other than talented musicians making good music.
Umphreyâ€™s shows are always different from night to night. If you look at the set lists of U2, their concerts stay pretty uniform with slight alterations in the running order and the occasional surprise thrown in. If you look at the Umphreyâ€™s set lists, itâ€™s rare to find a song repeated two shows in a row. There were only three songs repeated from the previous show I saw. Thatâ€™s why they are one of the bands with the most bootleg concerts available online, a practice they are cool with and even encourage.
Umphreyâ€™s usually set aside a section of the show that they call â€śJimmy Stewartâ€ť where they jam from scratch and improvise and another called â€śJazz Odyssey,â€ť which has more of a structure to it. Tonightâ€™s show had two of each, showcasing their musical skills. Even the songs that have lyrics were given extended musical treatments
One enjoyable element about Umphreyâ€™s concerts is that the band is as much a fan of music as is the audience. They drop in teases and covers throughout the night. This evening we got two outstanding covers: Ozzyâ€™s â€śNo More Tears,â€ť which I couldnâ€™t get out of my head all the next day and the last song of the night, Smashing Pumpkinsâ€™ â€śCherub Rock.â€ť For those paying attention, there was a tease of AC/DCâ€™s â€śRock and Roll Ainâ€™t Noise Pollution,â€ť Marleyâ€™s â€śKinky Reggaeâ€ť made it into the second half of â€śUtopian Fir,â€ť and Iâ€™m certain that I heard a little Rush. I'm sure other musical Easter eggs appeared throughout the set.