I’ll be honest. I’m a bit naive when it comes to Umphrey’s McGee. I don’t know the lyrics. I don’t know the titles. Hell (and this is embarrassing), I don’t even know their names. What I do know is that every time I’ve ever seen them – whether as an opening act for The New Deal at the old Higher Ground in Winooski, Vermont, 2003, to moe.down, to Bonnaroo, to shows over the years where only their name appeared on the marquee – I’ve loved it. I know amazing live music when I see it and I know something special happens when I feel it. Even when I don’t fully understand the true gravity of what is unfolding at the moment it’s presented, somehow the band and the crowd both let me know what’s up in their own ways. Something’s happening here. Umphrey’s McGee made something happen alright. They proved once again how fantastic a live act they are this past Friday night at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse.
Umphrey’s had a New Year’s Eve run planned in Miami that was canceled due to COVID-19. Specifically for that run, they had also planned to play something special – their album, Local Band Does OK, in its entirety. Two of those songs haven’t even been played live since 2004. As fate would have it, Friday night’s show in ‘Cuse was Umphrey’s 24th anniversary as a band, and they decided to bust out the whole album in celebration.
Right from the get-go, they went straight into it with “Andy’s Last Beer.” Over almost the full two sets, each track of the album was delivered with funk, unfolded with grace, and rocked with precision and clairvoyance you only see in a band that can kill it in their sleep. Umphrey’s McGee made the Landmark shine as it had just been fully restored to its glory.
Their light show only amplified the experience. Bottom line: the lights were gorgeous and went hand-in-hand with the tunes all the way through. I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Long-time Umphrey’s fan, Mike McNamara, explained how Ben Factor, the band’s Lumos expert, was doing since taking over duties from Jefferson Waful, “Ben Factor does an amazing job and has really synced with the band,” Mike said. “Waful and Factor definitely have their respective styles,” McNamara continued, “and their contributions have always been positive additions to the overall experience at an Umphrey’s show.”
Umphrey’s McGee concluded the post-album second set with “IDKWIW” and “Partyin’ Peeps” before encoring with “Slacker.”
Despite the frigid temperatures outside, the band warmed the hearts and souls of every live music lover in attendance. You could tell everyone was grateful to be seeing live music in a world that doesn’t always allow it to be so, was grateful to be seeing Umphrey’s have fun on stage, and grateful to catch all of Local Band Does OK on a special night.
I may have had to ask about the setlist thanks to my naivete, but no one had to tell me that Creative Concerts brought in a great show for all of us to see the light in cold and dark winter. Umphrey’s McGee, please hit up Syracuse annually.