Review by: Mike Prost
Photos: Kaidy Mae Newman
go here to download a recording of the show (thx Bradm!)
A lot of anticipation filled the room Wednesday night at The Danforth Music Hall in Toronto as Umphrey’s McGee were about to take the stage. The band from Chicago made the trip north of the border to play at the newly revamped music venue. The opening band The Bright Light Social Hour from Austin, TX started the night off right with bluesy dance jams that grabbed people’s attention. The venue used to have theatre style seating, which have been removed on the lower level to open up a general admission floor. The slanted grade of the floor makes for perfect sight lines.
Shortly after 9pm UM began their first set. The band’s prog-rock dance fusion sounds got the crowd moving right from the start. Ocean Billy was an early highlight as UM jammed out hard with an extended middle section of the song. The band is known for their highly improvisational shows. Spontaneous key changes made on the fly, using hand signals between band members, help create a unique show each and every night.
The dual guitar wizardry of Jake Cinninger and Brendan Bayliss, weave together effortlessly in an energetic sound that is second to none. A mixture of new and old favourites and a cover of Miss Gradenko by The Police filled out the set before UM closed with 40’s Theme. A song with playful lyrics about malt liquor and barbequing has dance rhythms held tight by Kris Myers on drums and Andy Farag on percussion that keep the crowd moving and grooving to the back beat. Funky bass lines on the low end by moustachioed Ryan ‘Pony Boy’ Stasik adds to the movement as the crowd gets closer and closer to the stage like a moth to the light. But it’s the face melting solos by Cinninger and Bayliss that excites the crowd and has the fans waiting with baited breath for the second set.
If set one gave any indication of how set two would pan out, the crowd was ready for a barn burner. UM opened set two with Plunger and segued into a roaring version of Higgins and then concluded by jamming back into Plunger. The band was firing on all cylinders at this point and the mixed demographic crowd of young and old loved every minute of it. Keyboardist Joel ‘Goldside’ Cummins played a vital role in the ambient tones of the heavily structured songs during the evening. Turn & Run which was sandwiched in between the reggae rocker Utopian Fir had darker jams with a tease of Bob Marley’s Exodus. The light show performed by Jefferson Waful was nothing short of extraordinary. The combination of light and sound fuelled the fire for the night.
The band ended the show with a cover of Live and Let Die by Paul McCartney & Wings. The buzz in the room was clear – Umphrey’s never disappoints. The audience certainly made the band feel welcome and at home as they raged all night long. For a Wednesday night this Toronto crowd sure made it feel like a Saturday.
Depth Charge >
Get In the Van
Made To Measure >
Professor Wormbog >
Miss Gradenko (The Police)
Push the Pig
Utopian Fir >
Turn & Run >
Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney & Wings)
Pay the Snucka
 – with Exodus (Bob Marley) jam