Review: Umphrey’s McGee at the Riverside Theater
Umphrey’s McGee made a trek down Wisconsin Avenue worthwhile in the frigid temperatures last week Friday night. I was accompanied by a few close friends who have seen Umphrey’s a handful of times on this tour, and at least thirty-two times in total (Saturday night was his thirty-third). Needless to say, I was in good company.
As a novice at the show, I quickly felt the energy radiate through the crowd as the first guitar riff of It’s Gonna Be A Long Night filled the space. The fast-paced cover of a song by Ween was an ideal start to get the crowd going for the next three hours.
Having seen bands like Pearl Jam own the stage at BMO Harris Center in the past, Umphrey’s Mcgee can keep up with their name at the Riverside Theater just as well, after a near twenty years of performing relentlessly. While that may be a stretch comparison at first, both acts have a way of taking command over the venue, and allowing the audience to become part of the show.
Though Umphrey’s Mcgee has toured tirelessly over the years, it is fun to see collaboration, experimentation, and varying set lists benefit an act’s live show, because it creates an atmosphere that allows endless energy. I suppose that’s why they play two-night shows in large cities.
During the first set, I was struck by a familiar song: In the Kitchen. At that moment I reminisced upon my days in high school riding in the passenger seat of my best friend’s Oldsmobile, windows rolled down, driving through the streets of Madison, Wisconsin. That nostalgic moment set me up for the rest of the night. I had forgotten that Umphrey’s Mcgee was a staple to my friend group during some of the best years of our lives.
For me, those memories only made it better when I was able to experience the live explosion of the crowd as they screamed “Chicago” just before the chorus. When the stage and audience mesh themselves this well, just as I experienced Friday night, it’s evident as to why there are fans that attend Umphrey’s McGee shows a few dozen (or thirty-three) times.