Umphrey’s McGee took the stage nearly right at their scheduled 9 p.m. start time for the second of their three-night residency at New York’s Beacon Theatre on Saturday. The dependability of the veteran prog-rock/jam band has been one of their strongest assets for the past 20 years, a was sublime throughout their two-set performance last night. It is that 20-year journey which has brought the band back to New York City in hopes of celebrating two decades together at the famous music venue in the city's Upper West Side. If Saturday’s show was any indication of how their big birthday bash on Sunday evening will go, ticket holders better call off of work on Monday while they still have their faces intact.
The band opened their first set with an adrenaline-fueling performance of “You Got the Wrong Guy.” While all six members were firing from all cylinders right out the gate, the evening's first half was more groovy than heavy. They made sure to establish a steady flow of their extensive live catalogue while working in a few new tracks, with surprises that included a tease of Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City” during “Utopian Fir,” and duel acoustic performances from guitarists Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger on each side of the stage during “Memories of Home” and “You & You Alone.” The brass-heads in the audience were also treated to the addition of Peter Apfelbaum and Snarky Puppy’s Mike Maher Peter joining in on saxophone and trumpet during “Attachments” and “Call to Arms.”
Umphrey’s unleashed a much heavier beast as they opened up the second set with “Maybe Someday,” one of the new songs off their It’s Not Us LP. The familiar lyrics of “In The Kitchen” also echoed throughout the venue as they continued to build heavily distorted momentum with “Little Gift,” “August” and “The Linear,” before returning back to “The Kitchen.” The climax of the show was undoubtedly an encore that featured a guitarist assault from both fronts courtesy of Bayliss and Cinninger. Any doubt of where the night’s performance ranked in the minds of the very dedicated Umphrey’s fans was surely blown away with Cinninger’s take on Van Halen’s “Eruption,” which transitioned into his own ridiculously electrifying guitar solo to close out the night.
With two nights down, only a 20th birthday celebration on Sunday could possibly top Saturday’s performance. Whether or not the show will live up to the expectations of those Umphrey’s diehards is yet to be determined, but if the band continues their streak of collaborative dependability that they’ve spent the last two decades establishing, then it should be a birthday to remember.