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Reviews > Shows

Published: 2003/09/29
by James Collins

Umphrey’s Mcgee, Niles Riverfront Amphitheater, Niles, MI- 9/19

It had all the makings of a perfect Umphrey's show. It was in Niles, MI hometown of guitarist Jake Cinninger and the neighbor to the north of the band's birthplace: South Bend, IN. It was at a great venue a new amphitheater in a beautiful downtown riverfront park. It was their special RIP show, in which the band was going to retire a few old songs that they had not played in a while. And it was a free show. But, thanks to an old local ordinance and some overbearing police officers, the RIP show was given an early death.

After opening the show with the hard riffs and hip hop flavor of "Push the Pig" and the thumping bass line of "Dump City," the show really took off as the September 11 inspired "The Haunt" segued into an up-tempo, trance oriented "Jimmy Stewart." These improv sessions are incorporated into almost every show and frequently turn into raging jams like the one heard tonight. Next, came a couple of songs which had not been played at all this year until earlier this month, The Beatles' "Baby, You're a Rich Man" and the old school fan favorite "Slacker." "Slacker" proved to be one of the night's best moments. And it was nice to see that Brendan Bayliss and Joel Cummings came through with their "Slacker" forecast for the Niles show, which they called out months ago at their solo acoustic gig. This particular version featured a spacey funk jam after the song's lyrical section that sounded a little like that of Phish's "Ghost." After a few minutes of the funk they launched right back into final section of the song led by some great guitar work by Bayliss. Umphrey's finished up the set with another old favorite "All in Time." I don't know if it was because of the great sound (this was the best I can remember hearing at an outdoor show) or just exceptionally crisp playing, but it was the best version of this song in recent memory. Kris Myers laid down a great solo and Cinninger and Bayliss were on top of their game as they traded licks to close out the song.

After a short set break, the band made it back to the stage and announced that their next song had been sold to the likes of Obie Trice and the Blue Oyster Cult. Making the audience believe that their second set opener may be the first retired song of the night. But, instead they unleashed the high-energy Led Zeppelin tune "The Song Remains The Same." For anyone who has not got the chance to see Umphrey's McGee, they are a band that does justice to the covers that they play whether it is Zeppelin, Marley, or The Police. Up next was the first retired song of the evening, "Bob." This was the song's first appearance since 10-12-00 and it left me wondering why. The crowd was really into it; I even heard mumblings of people hoping for a resurrection of this song already. When the song was finished, Bayliss leaned into the mic and simply said, "DEAD." They followed with one of their heavyweights the fast-paced, dance inducing instrumental "Nothing Too Fancy." This is one of the songs that has benefited from Myers break beat drum abilities since he joined the band at the beginning of this year. It was starting out to be a great rendition; the energy of the up-tempo song was successfully transferred into the crowd. But, about five minutes in, manager Vince Iwinski made his way on to the stage and had a few words with the band. At around 10:00 p.m., in the middle of an intense jam they came to an abrupt stop and announced that they were breaking the law. The crowd was in shock 2.5 songs into the second set and they were done? With everyone still hanging around in front of the amphitheater wondering what had just happened, keyboardist Joel Cummings came back out and apologized to those who had made a long trip to see the show. According to Iwinski, the Niles Police Department said that the show was too loud and that after receiving a number of complaints, the local law enforcement officials had determined it was disturbing the peace. If the show was not shut down, arrests were going to follow starting with the band. There was no attempt on the part of the police to discuss Niles' legal decibel level, even though the Umphrey's sound crew had a decibel reader and kept the PA at a presumably legal level. The concert had an audience of over 1,000 people most likely the largest audience the new amphitheater had ever seen, causing me to wonder – isn't the point of building a new amphitheater to attract people to the downtown area? The show was only scheduled to go for another hour and if they could have finished, it would have been a complete success. While I thoroughly enjoyed the music that I got to see, it was on pace to be a classic show. If they expect to have successful concerts at this venue in the future, they may have to let the music go past 10:00 p.m. on a Friday night.

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