204-03-12 Park West, Chicago, IL
This show holds a special place in my heart as it was the first show I saw as a fan. I had seen the band once before in 2002 but it didn't quite take. Two years later, the same lovely couple (veteran fans) hadn't given up on me and took me to this show… and it clicked. I was already semi-familiar at this point, but seeing them live again felt completely different and ingrained an opinion that this was the best thing happening in live music.
Set I: First set is notable because of all the mood changes. A truly impressive ADD set that touches on nearly every style that Umphrey's plays. I think the set lacks a bit of fluidity in return, but as a fan just learning the scope what these guys could do, it was eye opening. We start off with a nice warm-up intro jam. Bright Lights is standard (new), but an upbeat start. Quick-drop into original OB beginning and things start to heat up. [Side Note: early OB renditions show just how far Bayliss' vocal abilities have come in the last decade] OB ventures into improv for the first time of the night with a funk jam (I Ran teases). Trench Town Rock turns the whole mood upside down… happiness is unavoidable during this song and so was the case on this night. Full stop before N2F spins the mood of the room yet again (I Ran teases). There's a quick drop into Bad Poker and just as rapidly as the song appears, we drop back into a jam that could have easily spawned from the preceding N2F - a jam which knocks that country taste right out your mouth. The dual guitars harmonize triplet riffs while Pony provides a nice theme as foundation. The jam fills out nicely as guitars/keys adapt Pony's idea and then expand on it getting a bit more aggressive with each run through. A small bounce-back develops about halfway through before Joel moves front and center for a C section with a mellow watery effect that winds it down. Next, we get well played but fairly standard run of Wife Soup (small metal jam pulling riffs from Metallica's One), Mail Package and Prowler (more I Ran teases). The later segues into the ending of OB, in which Bayliss stretches his final note to a place I've yet to hear in another version of the song; A truly wonderful end to the set.
Set II: Begins fairly standard, but the final run of songs is crafted incredibly and left me with a very positive impression walking out. Stand-alone versions of Mulches and a new song Nemo start things off. Next up is the quirky multi-sectioned In Violation of Yes featuring Jake on bass and Pony on Rhodes. As a fledgling fan, I was blown away by Jake's ability to pick up another instrument and not only play well, but absolutely destroy it. From here on out the set gains momentum, taking us on a fantastic musical journey through the end of the show. Starting with the powerful Divisions sandwiched around the bands first unleashing of the double time Blue Echo (originally referred to as Techno Echo). The Blue Echo contains a nice little improvisational bit that just sort of floats along eventually leading back to the final portion of Divisions. The most memorable moment for me was All Things Ninja. It was the first time I'd ever heard the song -- 15 minutes of wonderful dark ugliness that had me by the throat for its entirety. A pause for band introductions before launching into the debut cover of Flock of Seagulls' I Ran which we all should have seen coming from the many teases in the first set (I missed them somehow). The cover is performed very well, and segues perfectly into the Fancy Reprise -- yet another wonderful way to end a set. Bridgeless Encore seemed like the bands attempt to wring every last bit of rage out of the crowd. It worked. A great high-energy encore.
I was obviously excited by my new-found incredible band. I can remember the walk out to a friend's house on Orchard like it were yesterday -- and the excited conversation that ensued peppered with many "We told you so's" from the couple who brought me and had championed the band for so long. I joined the Bort the next week and posted about how great this show was... and was immediately smacked down as a newbie over-fluffing a standard show. Re-addressing this show years later, I can see how it lacks the improvisational jaunts that I've grown to love and also require out of any "great" UM show. The obvious highlight being the N2F jam out of Bad Poker. …but then again, for a first show, it was everything I needed to get me started on the obsession. Something the jaded vets of today should keep in mind. The stylistic variety, technical ability and musicianship displayed, and most importantly the capability to take me to the place that the run from Divisions on did… is something that has stuck with me all these years.
sbd mtx here: 2004-03-12 Park West
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