For the second night of the recent Umphrey’s McGee two-night stand in Chicago, the crowd gathered out front was greater than the night before. Apparently the all-ages shows don’t bring out the same wookie crowd looking for cheap tickets out front, because there were many more the next night. It was fun to see all the Navy Pier tourists peering curiously into our hippie-concert little world, though. Many times I saw people either mocking or wondering curiously—what does one finger in the air mean?
I wonder that same thing myself sometimes, as they were clearly selling tickets at the box office up until the last minute. It’s like, some wookies are so damn lazy that they don’t want to walk all the way through Navy Pier to check the box office before they start begging for an extra. And, I’m sorry, but I’ll never get over this. This does not make the scene better. This is not a positive aspect of the scene. When too many people show up for a show without a ticket, you are risking that the fun will be ruined for the rest of us.
My better half and I ended up getting in super early thanks to Madison House’s generosity; we had a photo pass, too. Unfortunately, the photo pass was of very minimal use, though. The Skyline Stage doesn’t have a barrier that would separate the crowd from the photographers, so we didn’t really have a great opportunity to get up front and get photos when the whole crowd is naturally gravitating towards the front at the same time. It just didn’t work.
We were in our seat and ready to go for the show beginning. Believe the Lie was a good warmup tune, but The Triple Wide > Stew > The Triple Wide was just amazing. The 2×2 > Robot World was possible the best twenty minutes of UM that I’ve ever experienced. I remember it being amazing the entire time, but I have yet to confirm this considering that the show is not available for download yet. Nopener was the funny, lounge style sung by Kris at this past New Year’s Eve, and I can’t wait until their new DVD comes out with all the other highlights that we experienced those two nights nearly a year ago. Layla was the most standard version possible with Brendan taking the vocals and Jake taking the solos.
40’s Theme opened the second set, much to my extreme glee and happiness. I don’t remember what Orfeo sounded like; I wasn’t familiar with the tune when it was being played. #5 is a good tune as always, and it laid the groundwork for some serious crowd excitement in the form of Pay the Snucka. City of Tiny Lights featured some guests that definitely brought a whole different kind of energy into the show. Higgins > Uncle Wally > Glory is a little bit of a blur for me, but I remember the JaJunk encore being really solid. I’ve never been a huge Zappa fan, so the Willie the Pimp didn’t really register with me that much.
Overall, both nights of this run were extremely well played. This was possibly the strongest, two shows that I’ve seen in a while, actually. There was no focus on the typical, UM theatrics that can tend to take over sometimes; these shows were just pure focus. Pure energy. Pure, UM music. It was great, both nights, all the way through. No questions asked. These guys never cease to amaze. With a new light rig straight out of the “How To Be a Bigger Jamband?” cookbook, UM is going to have a strong fall to head straight into their NYE extravaganza at the Aragon Ballroom. I’ll be there. I hope you will be, too.
I also hope that they continue back at the Skyline Stage in the summers to come. It’ll keep me in Chicago, that’s for sure.
Setlist from UM.com…
09.04.05 – Skyline Stage – Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois
Set One: Believe the Lie, The Triple Wide > “Jimmy Stewart”* > The Triple Wide > Passing, Smell the Mitten, 2×2 > Robot World, Nopener**, Layla
Set Two: 40’s Theme, Orfeo, #5, Pay the Snucka, City of Tiny Lights^, Higgins > Uncle Wally > Glory
Encore: Willie the Pimp^, JaJunk