A good friend of mine tells me that he has always experienced any troubles getting to a show as a good omen that said show is going to be a barn burner. This could all be in his mind, but the adage has rung true for me over this past week while following around Umphrey’s McGee. I’m a bit of a Slacker so these problems often tend to crop up two by two, but this past week of Umphrey’s has been the most consistently amazing week of music I’ve ever seen from them. Last night in Dallas, it was like Umphrey’s was playing directly to me, slaying a raging show at the House of Blues.
Getting to Dallas was a small hassle. I’ve been on the road for a week, flown on at least as many planes as days I’ve been away and, frankly I’m ready to go home. A direct flight from New Orleans should take about an hour, but somehow, I ended up connecting in Memphis which about tripled my flying time for the day. It was a cloud covered afternoon as I arrived in the Lone Star State and I feared rain was abound. Upon getting off the plane, I noticed that the thick humid air of New Orleans was not present in Dallas and I felt a little better as I waited outside to be shuttled to the venue.
You may be asking yourself why any of this pertains to the show at all, but I swear, this is most strictly about the music. See, as a faithful fan of the last five years, I cannot help myself but think of songs and titles that apply to my day. And, on this particular evening in Dallas, Umphrey’s seemed to know the whole story.
“Sociable Jimmy” kicked off the set with it’s tricky, syncopated intro and jazzy verse got the crowd moving right along, continuing into “2nd Self.” Sticking to the jazzy mood, they scooted into “Example 1” which featured a more stiff improvisation which built steadily to a guitar laden peak before dropping into the moody “Passing” off of their 2005 release Safety In Numbers. My concert review partner and I were discussing the possibilities of what we might see and talked briefly about the slinky latin based “Prowler” and decided it wouldn’t happen since it was played over the weekend at the Summer Camp Music Festival. Needless to say, we were pleasantly surprised as they belted through the intricate piece. To my surprise, the up tempo flame throwing “Prowler” furiously released its explosive energy before dying down into Blind Faith classic “Can’t Find My Way Home.” This had been exactly how I felt all day squeezed into a floating tin can all day and dreaming of a night in my own bed. The half haunting and half driving “Utopian Fir” followed, opening up in a massive reggae dub jam led by the palpitating bass line from Ryan Stasik drawing the set to a close.
The second set blasted off with a remarkable rendition of their symphonic masterpiece “Miss Tinkle’s Overture,” one of the tunes I was itching to hear before the end of my mini-tour. After “Tinkle’s” we were granted a small reprieve in the intensity as they invited the opening act Brock Butler to the stage to lay down one of his airy originals “Cold Gold.” For the rest of the set, it became quite clear that Umphrey’s McGee were not just talented musicians, but also mind readers. All day I had been singing, humming and whistling that old Paul Simon classic about my unintended connecting flight destination of Memphis, TN and sure enough, the next tune on the docket: “Graceland” with Butler making that lap steel guitar really sing. It was so random, so perfect; my soul smiled. “Dump City” was one I called in light of the clouds looking like rain over Dallas. A smashing first half of “Spires” followed before finding itself in the tranquil country instrumental ditty “End of the Road” marking the end of this portion of my Umphrey’s tour. “End of the Road” finally grooved into my last call of the night “Thin Air,” whose title seemed so fitting to celebrate the fact that I could finally breathe after the humidity of New Orleans.
Umphrey’s returned to throw down a searing “Bottom Half” encore (saving my Hurt Bird Bath call again for another show I wouldn’t be at) and drew rocked all the way to the final note. A few members of the band stuck around to meet and greet, laugh and autograph; we all went home happy and I was happy to finally get home. Check out umphreys.com for the rest of this summer’s tour schedule, hours of free podcasts, photos from every show, the band’s blog and so much more.
Set One Sociable Jimmy, 2nd Self, Example 1 > Passing, Prowler > Can't Find My Way Home, Utopian Fir
Set Two Miss Tinkle's Overture, Cold Gold^, Graceland^, Dump City, Spires > End of the Road > Thin Air*