Review and Photos by Jay Donnell
Umphrey’s McGee is gearing up for LOCKN’ Festival in a very big way. The band that formed in South Bend, In. headed south this past weekend and spent August 17th through August 20th playing shows in Birmingham, Al., Atlanta, Ga., Nashville & Knoxville, Tn. They’ll head up to Oak Ridge Farm in Arrington, Va. this week to perform at LOCKN’, which has become one of the must see music festivals in the United States.
UM started their southern weekend run by playing an absolute heater first set at Sloss Furnaces in Bham (speaking of must see, Sloss Furnaces is quickly becoming one of the better music venues in the Southeast, @soulgrown_birmingham). At one point in the first set the boys played “Booth Love > Plunger > Morning Song” and “Panama,” the Van Halen classic. To say I was jealous of my Birmingham friends who attended the show would be an understatement.
“Morning Song” (Mourning Song) has always been a favorite of mine. The song has been played 132 times by UM and appeared as a bonus track on their album, Similar Skin, which peaked at 49 on the Billboard 200 in 2014. “Panama” is a classic hit released by Van Halen back in 1984. The band has covered the timeless 80’s tune 17 times, but before Thursday night they had not played it in over three years.
I was lucky enough to attend the concert in Atlanta on Friday night and I have some top secret news to report to the Live Music Daily audience. Umphrey’s McGee is a very good band. In fact, they’re an incredible band. I was able to get an up close look at the men who I’ve seen live numerous times and whose songs I have listened to repeatedly for over a decade now. They did not disappoint.
On a surprisingly comfortable night for Atlanta in August, (the high was 90 degrees all day which we welcome with open in arms during the brutal Southeast summers) UM cranked up the heat by opening with “Flamethrower,” a jam that has only been played 16 times since it was released back in 2010.
The band got into their groove with “Junk > Roulette” and then charmed the Atlanta audience by performing “Words,” which is a well known UM tune that appeared on their 2006 album Safety In Numbers. It was an anniversary of sorts for “Words” as it was played exactly one year ago on 8/18/16 at Minglewood Hall in Memphis, Tn. The hit song has now been performed just over 100 times.
UM continued the first set with Miami (Stew) > Cutoff > Utopian (Dance) > Dub. The band absolutely crushed the first set closer, “Glory,” which delighted the audience at Chastain Park. After a brief set break UM didn’t pull any punches when they came out guns blazing with a “Fame” cover. “Fame” has only been covered 12 times by the Chicago-based band so this was a real treat for the several thousand patrons in attendance.
“M.O. (Stew) > Billy > Den > Just Joel > Phil’s (JO) > No Last Note > Package > August” finished off a great second set for UM; but it was the encore that put the cherry on top of an overall very solid concert from the critically acclaimed musicians out of Illinois. “Triple Wide” finished off the night for UM and left the crowd screaming for more. The classic Umphrey’s tune was played as recently as August 12th at Montage Mountain in Scranton, Pa. and has been played over 400 times in UM’s history. The incredible hit was first performed back in January 2002.
It was an exceptional night of music in Atlanta as White Denim kicked off the evening with some great jams and UM continued their incredible run with another fantastic show. The night also brought back some memories of seeing the band on NYE a couple years ago with Live Music Daily founder, Andrew McConnell when we saw them at the Tabernacle on an unforgettable New Year’s Eve run in downtown Atlanta.
If you get a chance to see UM this fall do yourself a favor and treat your ears to a great night of music. These guys are the ultimate music professionals and they continue to produce quality tunes. Their studio work is excellent and their live show energy has not waned at all. Umphrey’s McGee is riding high and it is time to climb aboard.