Cold November nights in Wisconsin and Umphreyâ€™s McGee have always had the ingredients for a magical show. Dating back to 2006 and even further back if you include October the band is always on point this time of year. Add a great theater that Waful crushed and this night was another one of those nights. I was beyond excited driving up last minute since my last two set Umphreyâ€™s show had been the Bill Graham private show way back in April.
The show opened up with silky smooth Plunger > Much Obliged > Plunger Sammy giving us a nice treat of some older tunes. The drop into M.O. was spot on where the transition in Plunger normally is which lead to funky jam with a raging peak before bouncing back into the end of M.O. and then fading beautifully into the end of Plunger with a Joel lead piano solo. Everything about this sandwiched screamed Umphreyâ€™s McGee, the precisions and execution was flawless.
Next came Higgins with an exceptional jam, Stasik stepped up and leads the way with an infectious groove that everyone built around. Once again the flow in and out of Higgins was superb. This dance party Higgins got followed up by a rare treat in another old tune Sweetness. This leads some very uplifting, graceful improv landing on a rock riff that Jake ends up teasing Rebubula briefly before he shreds his way into funky riffs everyone picks up on and then BOOM! It drops into Comma Later.
No Diablo came next, a song debut at UMBowl earlier this year and only played 5 times prior. I really dig the Supertramp vibe and Iâ€™m glad itâ€™s getting played. Finally, the highlight of the show for me closed out the first set with an extended 40â€™s Theme that included a verse of The Policeâ€™s â€œThe Bedâ€™s Too Big Without Youâ€. Once again the MVP of the night, Ryan Stasik stepped up with some Sublime bass effects that had the place going ape shit until it fizzled into The Police which lead to equal excitement from the crowd. The band then slowly grooved back into the end of 40â€™s and walk off stage leaving us eager with anticipation for set two.
The second started off with another monster rock sandwich in Mantis > Mulcheâ€™s Odyssey > Mantis. Mantis is a tune I really wish would get improv all the time but not tonight, however the powerful first verse had the energy flowing from the start and that spilled over into an insanely powerful Mulcheâ€™s. Jake was toying with the Who Knows? riff in the rock breakdown but never went into it. Once again they kept a sold out crowd going full force before finishing the tune and ever so carefully segueing back into Mantis.
Following up this huge sandwich was Miami Virtue, the highlight of set two without a doubt. This version clocks in just under 15 minutes, 10 of which is improv and it is really something special. It has a slow intro where Jake walks over and joins Joel on keys and then they proceed to lay down some very tasty layers together. This dark jam is a great example of where everyone comes together and is doing just enough to mesh together something great. As the tempo picks up everything seems to take form and a masterful team effort unfolds. Bayliss really lays down some licks as this builds up before cutting out into some keys and synthesizer where this dark jam sees the light and transpires into a glorious uplifting jam. This jam then quietly fades into the night with a slow segue into a standard JaJunk where yet again Stasik stepped up and laid down some bubbly bass. The band closed out the second with a crowd favorite cover of Metallicaâ€™s â€œâ€¦And Justice For Allâ€ which hadnâ€™t seen the light of night in 577 shows. They encored with a standard Bridgeless which I consider a treat since it seems rare to catch a standalone Bridgeless these days, even if it normally creates great improv. A great choice by the band to close out a show that rocked from start to finish.