Umphrey’s McGee Return to Kalamazoo on 20th Anniversary Tour

Umphrey’s McGee landed in Kalamazoo on February 2nd and 3rd as frost and snow blanketed over the Michigan region. Frigid weather did not matter much to the band as they came armed with a fire in their hearts and ready to show love for the Midwest. This became obvious throughout the weekend as the band delved deep into their catalog, treating fans to a two-night explosion that showed off the musicianship and chemistry they have perfected over the past 20 years.

The most impressive and mind-twisting sets came on Night Two of the Michigan stand which included deep cuts, song segues and set sandwiches. Umph opened the show with the rarity “Nipple Trix” before blasting into a 20 minute jam of set staple “Bridgeless.” This really got the energy flowing early.

Photo: Joshua Krol

After taking a much needed breath and wiping the sweat from their brows, Umphrey’s stepped into “Half Delayed,” a brand new song from the recently released studio album itsnotus. The band pushed forward with throwback tracks “Ringo” and “Rocker” that kept the crowd engaged.

The night was filled with surprises. The Marcus King Band, who had been opening for McGee through their Midwestern stint, took the stage alongside the headliners for a stunning version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Power Of Soul.” Umphrey’s put the young Marcus King in the spotlight and he absolutely nailed a blazing guitar solo. Guitar work that would have made the late Hendrix proud.

After a roaring applause from the crowd, Marcus left the stage as Umphrey’s bassist Ryan Stasik tuned up and thumbed is fingers through the ever recognizable opening riff to “Puppet Strings.” Following a crowd singalong to the first verse, the tune eventually bled into “Nothing too Fancy” which completed their version from the night before and ended Set One.

Photo: Joshua Krol

The song sandwich fun didn’t end there. Umphrey’s kicked off their fourth set of the two-nighter with “All In Time” followed by a ripping version of another new tune, “Whistle Kids.” After a brief silence, Umphrey’s blasted into the old school classic “JaJunk” followed by the closing of the “Puppet Strings” jam started in the first set. To make things even more interesting UM delivered a jammed-out “Utopian Fir” that involved a cover of David Bowie’s “Fame” in the middle of it.

They really turned up the Jamtronic side of things near the end of the second set. Umphrey’s continued on with a groovy version of “The Triple Wide” before seguing into the latter half of “JaJunk” that eventually closed the epic multi-song sandwich bringing the set to a dramatic ending. For the encore the band busted out another rarity, “Front Porch,” that had the whole crowd dancing in satisfaction before bringing the outstanding KZoo run to a close.

Even after two decades playing together as a band, Umphrey’s McGee continues to keep things fresh and unexpected. Standing at the forefront of tech-inspired prog-rock, it’s clear the band has no plans to slow down. After eleven studio albums and countless live shows the sextet seem more comfortable than ever. From newbies to the group to the Umph Freaks, it’s an exciting time to be an Umphrey’s fan as they look to take their music to exciting new frontiers.

Set 1: Nipple Trix > Bridgeless, Half Delayed, Ringo, Rocker, Power of Soul[1], Puppet String -> Nothing Too Fancy[2]

Set 2: All In Time, Whistle Kids, JaJunk > Puppet String, Utopian Fir > Fame > Utopian Fir, The Triple Wide > JaJunk

Encore: Front Porch

[1] with Marcus King on guitar and Deshawn Alexander on keyboards
[2] completing the 02.02.2018 version

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