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Published: 2005/03/03
by Holly Isbister

Umphrey’s McGee, Barrymore Theater, Madison, WI- 2/18

On Friday, February 18th, Madison Wisconsin's Barrymore Theater played host to a stellar performance by Umphrey's McGee. It's beautiful starry night sky ceiling and contrasting late-80's decor make The Barrymore an endearing, if not flavorful, location to see a show. But more than anything, The Barrymore is like the Umphrey's McGee family lake house – where the band can go less than three hours from their hometown to let their hair down and relax a bit. At least, it appeared as such on stage. Seeing Umphrey's McGee outside of Chicago has its advantages. The band appears looser, more willing to take risks on stage and the setlists tend to be more varied.

This evening was no exception to the rule. The first set featured an enthusiastic rendition of "Tribute to Spinal Shaft," with Kris Myers fully utilizing his thunderous bass drum. The band then diverted into a "Jimmy Stewart" that at times sounded similar to something you might hear from The Smashing Pumpkins, not some self-proclaimed Midwestern, Budweiser-guzzling jackasses. "Panama," a crowd favorite from the New Year's run closed the first set after a monster "Jajunk" jam that featured a tease of the theme to Top Gun.

The better half was clearly the second. It opened with a new instrumental original written by Andy Farag entitled, "Atmosfarag." If this song is any indication of the creative prowess of Mr. Farag, fans have much to look forward to if he continues to contribute new material. The second set also featured another new original entitled "Believe the Lie," a song that might be characterized by the fast-tempo staccato guitar work of The Police's Andy Summers but with Umphrey's McGee's own epic song-writing tendencies.

An encore of "Great American" (formerly known as "San Fran") and "Walletsworth" ended the night almost as effortless as it began. They were loading out guitars rather than empty coolers and a drum kit instead of leftover chicken drum sticks, but all in all the mood as the band left the stage that night was as laid back as the Sunday after a weekend picnic party at the lake. All the deviled eggs in Chicago might not achieve that vibe, but The Barrymore certainly proved a comfy get away for one of today's hardest working bands.

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