Umphrey’s McGee stopped by the House of Blues in Dallas on Friday on their way to Austin for their annual 4/20 show at Stubb’s BBQ. The Dallas gig also has become an annual event, either coming the day before or the day after the Austin show. I’ve been seeing UM in Dallas for several years now, and their popularity had grown significantly. Brendan Bayliss even commented during the show that he remembers their first shows in the Big D were attended by about 12 people. They’ve multiplied that number to a near sell-out crowd. And deservedly so, as their repertoire has grown with new original and cover tunes popping up regularly, and their setlists are tailored to move the crowd through a rocked out, improve laden maze for almost three hours, emerging from the other end physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.
The adventure on Friday began with the Nippletrix intro, crescendoing and dropping into a 14 minute Resolution. Originally an Ali Baba’s Tahini composition, Resolution has been around for more than 10 years. This little tidbit is from the Stats engine on www.umphreys.com, a very cool, new feature on the band’s website. Next up was Hourglass, a relatively new song, followed by a couple of my favorites, 1348 and Morning Song. 1348 is like a few different songs all merged into one, with changes in time signature and melodies, and there’s something about Morning Song when seen live with Jefferson Waful’s amazing light work. Following with a dedication to all the ladies from Andy “Xanadu” Farag, the band played Toto’s Rosanna. The 75 minute first set wrapped up with Conduit and then Mulche’s Odyssey.
The second set opened up with All In Time, the most played UM tune. This was the 427th appearance of All In Time, and I know why they play it so often. It’s a great vehicle for improvisation, “Jimmy Stewart” pieces as the band calls them. It actually turned into a 26 minute All In Time > Day Nurse > All In Time sandwich. This was followed by a great version of Higgins, long and jammed out. They even threw in a “Talking in Your Sleep” tease, complete with lyrics. The second set progressed to Slacker and then closed with the Rolling Stones’ Can’t You Hear Me Knocking. The first encore was the always fun and spirited Partyin’ Peeps, and the show closed out with a majestic Hajimemashite, or Haji for those who can’t pronounce the full Japanese greeting.
This was my 25th Umphrey’s show, and I can honestly say they always deliver to goods. Except for a few festy shows that just weren’t long enough, Umphs consistently performs at their peak, which logically means that they have kept improving, and with the growth of the song library, both originals and covers, they’ve continued to amaze me. In addition to the tight, well-played, inspirational music, Jeff Waful has continued to develop his light palatte, which has become such an important, integral part of the show. Rock on my friends from Chicago!!