umdvdcover.jpgUmphrey’s McGee
Wrapped Around Chicago: New Year’s at the Riv

©2005, Emtybag

Umphrey’s McGee played two very epic shows last December 30 and 31 at the Riviera and recorded both nights for use on a DVD. The final product, a near close-to-complete best-of from December 31 (with some of the 30th on the extras), is leaps and bounds ahead of their first DVD release, Live at Lake Coast Skyline Stage. They got plenty of money to put into this one and it paid off well. I don’t even have the final copy of the DVD with the final sound mixes, and it really doesn’t matter at all. While I’m confident the final sound mix will be the best sounding, I don’t need that to complete my love-all criteria. The DVD is done well and it’s worth watching over and over.

I could download the show in less than a week after, so I had heard the show again and again since the actual night of. You knew that there were some great moments and the band certainly approached the night as something that NEEDED to be documented.

The DVD captures the night right from the beginning. Divisions. The band, the camera work, the crowd, the venue (surprisingly), the lights–it all comes out excellent on the movie from the very beginning. It perfectly captures what it felt like to be there. Straight from Divisions until the end of the Disc 1, UM plays one excellent first set to open the evening. My favorite sequence of the show is the end of the disc, The Crooked One, Nopener, Robot World > Partying Peeps (start of second set thrown on Disc 1). These four songs together—unbelievable. How could any other band get away with this?

The second disc is just as good, as it features the full NYE balloon drop coming out of Bright Lights. They had some friends come up and play horns on the second disc, including a smoking cover of Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer and The Band’s Ophelia. While the DVD features a couple parts where the inside jokes might be a little too inside, I think they do a good job of mixing their silly little sense of stage humor into their performance. However, I was very disappointed to see that they didn’t actually include the full show. It’s close, but it’s just not full. The extras are as robust as needed, featuring some backstage footage from the Jammys performance with Huey Lewis, photos, and a couple live moments from the December 30 show the night before. Andy Farag does all the menu music and it provides a really good glimpse into the Atmosfarag/Robot World/The Triple Wide influence the band exudes.

All in all, I don’t know how far and in-depth a DVD review really can be other than just a basic description of what the DVD contains and how I felt about. It was extremely well-done and it deserves all the attention that it can get. While I know that there’s been a lot of talk about UM and how their music actually makes sense or not, I’ve been onboard for a while. These guys are making some great music very tailored towards the jamband crowd (which I can imagine they already knowingly try to shake), and hopefully they’ll continue to make the magic they made last New Year’s Eve, 2004.

Good times.