Umphrey’s McGee played two nights at the Nokia Theatre this past weekend in Times Square, on Friday playing their new album “Mantis” in its entirety. It was the first time Umphrey’s tackled such a feat, and you can download the show either through UMLive or Archive.org.
“I think it went pretty well,” said keyboardist Joel Cummins the following night. “People were happy with it.”
I was there for night two of the NYC run. Luckily I got to catch up with Cummins before the show to talk shop, starting off by asking him about how it felt to start playing songs from “Mantis” after giving the tracks so much attention in the studio. As you may know, the band didn’t play any of the tracks live until the album was released in January, which is very rare in the “jam” scene.
“We’ve been holding on to the music for so long,” Cummins said, that “the first time we actually got to play this stuff was so fun.”
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He said “1348” is a song that rocked right off the bat, setting a nice live groove. “Red Tape,” on the other hand, has been a bit more challenging to play live, though Cummins said the song’s been getting better in the last couple of months, with lots of improve being mixed in.
And what does it feel like on stage when that magical improv moment happens?
“I’d say a mix of complete excitement and also relief,” Cummins said with a laugh. “It’s like wow, this one didn’t suck and that’s good.”
Great quote, right?! I love that.
I also talked to Cummins about the band’s communication on stage, which relies on a mix of hand signals and verbal chatter through tiny ear pieces. Coolest thing, in my opinion, is that the lighting designer (we’ll get to him in a minute!) is also hooked in to this chatter, so that the whole production comes off in perfect sync.
OK, so as for those lights.
Big props to the band’s new lighting designer, Jeff Waful, who just joined the band earlier this year. He really puts on such an impressive visual show. Formerly with the band moe. (sorry moe.rons, doesn’t look like you’re getting him back any time soon!), Waful had this to say about working with the boys from Chicago:
“When I first began working with Umphrey’s, I was immediately struck by their passion for music,” he said in a press release on the band’s site. “I was quite aware of their on-stage antics, but it was the late-night listening sessions and subsequent geeky discussions that truly captured my heart. This band shows a dedication and work ethic that is infectious.”
Check out more photos from the night on the Listening Room Facebook page. (And remember to become a fan while you’re there!)
I very highly recommend that you check out Umphrey’s McGee when they play the Central Park SummerStage on July 9 or the Mountain Jam at Hunter Mountain the weekend of May 29-31. Check out their Web site for more tour dates near you.
Hungry for more? Here’s our Umphrey’s coverage, including a post around the time of the “Mantis” album release, when I spoke with guitarist/songwriter Brendan Bayliss.
“We want the Umph! Gotta have that Umph!”
Like the Disco Biscuits and Tea Leaf Green? Check out some of my other concert video coverage.