Umphrey’s McGee & The London Souls 1.2.16
Words By Coleman Schwartz
Photos By Kevin Hahn (Split Open & Shoot)
Their stripped-down instrumentation features Tash Neal (guitar/vocals) and Chris St. Hilaire (drums/vocals). As soon as they took the stage, I was reminded of the White Stripes because of this. As they began to play, this comparison gained legitimacy. Their sound was gigantic for a duo, mainly due to the thick, fuzzy guitar tone from Neal. The vocals were a balanced mix of bluesy and psychedelic, with even contributions from both members. They warmed the crowd perfectly so that Umphrey’s could come out and get right into it.
The band took the stage for their first set and launched straight into dual-lead rocker “Miss Tinkles Overture.” The main riff to this song sounds like the final boss battle of a video game; this choice of opener made it clear that the band was not messing around on the final night of the run. The jam section saw peaks getting bigger just when it seemed impossible, until the song exploded into its epic conclusion.
As the band paused, the crowd went wild. The band took this chance to play “Domino Theory,” from 2012’s Death by Stereo. This odd track features abrasive, confusing vocals from Bayliss over soaring, metal-inspired guitar riffs. I’ve heard from many fans, both new and old, that they just don’t get or enjoy this song, but one thing nobody will deny is that the track gets top-notch improv treatment every single time it’s played. This time was no exception, with a jazzy groove giving way to a four-on-the floor dance party to Cinninger’s octave-pedal guitar part.
The second set opened with heavy-hitter “Plunger.” This classic original delves into jazz, metal and rock influences, and definitely stands out as one of the most complete tunes in the band’s catalog. Bayliss sounded great as he tackled the lead vocals, which deal with indecision about the band’s future back when late drummer Mike Mirro left the band in 2002. After crushing the second composed section of the song, bassist Ryan Stasik propelled them into a dark, groovy jam.
The band took a brief pause to let the crowd recover from that insane set-opening segment. The next track was a debut cover of Mark Ronson’s “Daffodils.” This was a song I had not heard before, but it was a heavy funk tune with great falsetto vocals from Myers. While watching, I thought that the vocals were some of the more psychedelic in the band’s catalog. As it turns out, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker sings them on the original version, which explains that perfectly. The softness of Myers’ vocals reminded me a bit of My Morning Jacket’s Jim James as well. This cover debut was exceptionally polished and made for a diverse addition to their repertoire. I can’t wait to see the band grow more comfortable improvising with this one.
The set closed out with a great rendition of their most metal-influenced song “Wizard Burial Ground.” This odyssey was the perfect way to end a set full of intense heavy hitters without lowering the energy level. The crowd was straight-up raging as the improvised section saw more delay work from Cummins, as well as a crunchy, Pink Floyd-influenced section towards the end. Top to bottom, the second set of this performance was my favorite set I have seen the band play in over a year. The band did exactly what they do best, which is put on the hardest-hitting rock show in the business.
After seeing the last four consecutive UM New Year’s runs, I have to say this run was one of my favorites. This was the first of these runs where I have seen the band really save their absolute best for the final performance, something that helped the flow of the run tremendously. Each run I have been lucky enough to see has been a great one, but this one stands out as special to me. The band did an awesome job of rewarding those who chose to spend their holiday with them, especially in an uber-competitive Denver market.
Set One: Miss Tinkle's Overture, FF > The Fussy Dutchman, Domino Theory, Nemo > Sweetness > Nemo, Soul Food I > Ocean Billy
Set Two: Plunger -> No Comment > Slacker, Daffodils, Front Porch, Wizard Burial Ground
Encore: Uncommon > The Floor
 with Over the Hills and Far Away (Led Zeppelin) tease
 with Jaden Carlson on guitar
 debut, Mark Ronson
 with There’s No Crying in Mexico tease
Kevin's Photo Galley