Umphrey’s McGee brings all that and more to Missoula
(Missoula Current) It's always a great night when Umphrey's McGee comes to town. That was certainly the case at the Wilma Theater on Friday night.
Going on 25 years as a band based out of Chicago, they bring the long musical history of that city to their live performances. They are known for their progressive rock, but that doesn't cover the influences that have gotten them through these past 25 years.
Over the years, they have experimented with a variety of musical styles including jazz, blues, reggae electronic and bluegrass, as well as metal and country. Formed while students at Notre Dame University, the makeup of the band has remained essentially unchanged. This has created not only the excellence each brings to their instruments, but an awareness of each other, thereby knowing where each are going in the song.
As jam bands go, Umphrey's McGee is as good as it gets. Lead guitarist Jake Cinninger's solos are filled with emotion and maturity that brings the audience to a frenzy motion. Over the years, they have become world-class musicians, refocusing their music in ways that brings new fans in but keeps the long-time fans happy and coming back for more.
They are on tour supporting their latest album “Asking For a Friend.” They talked about the process of creating this latest effort coming after the pandemic.
Pulling the ripcord and taking an enforced break after twenty years of touring resulted in not only a complex emotional reaction from members of Umphrey’s McGee.
“Those first three months felt like an eternity,” keyboardist Joel Cummins said. But “there was a huge excitement and motivation when we got back together again. More than ever, we realized how much we needed each other and this music.”
But their reunion also refined a newfound approach to letting their new music flow freely by not over-thinking it.
“This album reflects how our songwriting has really come a long way since the days of putting ‘legos’ together, a term given to explain our past process of assembling the greater sum of the parts in eclectic fashion,” said drummer Kris Myers. “Instead, we were able to naturally connect with these songs with our hearts, and a little less from our heads through simple, serene songs.”
The end result is an astoundingly cohesive fourteen-song album that feels like a fresh statement from a group of world-class musicians and friends re-approaching their craft with a new lens. But long-time fans will be happy to know that the Umphrey’s McGee they know and love is still very much present on “Asking For A Friend,” just more refined.