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Umphrey’s McGee, Beacon Theatre, New York, NY- 1/17

Photos by Andrew Blackstein

If you find yourself lucky enough to have the opportunity to catch a band in their prime you better take it. Such was the case when Umphrey’s McGee returned to The Beacon Theatre for two sold-out shows in early January.

Using the Beacon’s rustic statues and paintings as a backdrop, Lighting Director Jefferson Waful energized the Friday crowd with a majestic display of color and negative space. Quite frankly the guy might very well be the best in the business pound for pound. He was locked on with the group, much like the “12th man” is to the Super Bowl bound Seattle Seahawks.

Firing a lengthy “Bridgeless> Slacker” to start the night off, Brendan Bayliss (guitar, vocals) appeared loose but confident that once again Umphrey’s would give New Yorkers something to talk about at the water cooler on Monday. Like a heavyweight boxer defending his title Jake Cinninger (guitar, vocals) weaved in and out of major and minor scales, making playing the guitar look elementary. His technical prowess is something seldom seen today. Saturated heavily by drum and bass, Jake did not get the memo that playing guitar is out of style. It’s a good thing he missed that letter, because he straight up kills it.

The energy that Umphrey’s was able to produce had the middle lodge section bouncing up and down to the point that one might have gotten seasick if seated. It’s safe to assume that its architecture has springs built into the floor, because the Umphrey’s faithful had the section bobbing all evening.

Highlights were vast and many. The second set of the gig yielded a jaw dropping “Dump City” and “Puppet String> Hajimemashite>Puppet String.” The communal joy appeared most in unison with the cover of “Rock The Casbah,” as east coast fans got a taste of the tune that appeared over the band’s Colorado New Years Run. Throughout the night one thing kept showing itself as the constant, Umphrey’s McGee is riding high on a creative wave that seems to have no hints of slowing down or dissipating.

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