February 6, 2010
For it being “Hot’lanta,” it sure was a very very cold evening at the Tabernacle even for the Chicago boys from Umphrey’s McGee, but that was only until you got inside those hallowed walls. After all, the venue’s a converted 100-year-old Baptist Tabernacle church, and it was the late Bob Marley’s Birthday. Things were going get interesting this evening, everybody knew it, and you could feel it in the air that night.
After all, as Pony (bassist Ryan Stasik) said, “it had the tri-fecta: Joel’s Batchelor party after show, the pre show S2 (Stewart Art Project) and third – the two words every band wants to hear – "Sold Out.”
That third factor was a surprise to a lot of folks, possibly even the band. It was the band’s first sell out at the The Tabernacle. Needless to say, extra tickets were scarce but everyone who really wanted in seemed to miraculously appear.
From the thunderous opening notes of “JaJunk,“ fans’ domes began to be destroyed by Jake Cinninger’s pointed chops. It was not their first “Jajunk” opener in Atlanta; some may remember the famed 10-14-05 Tabernacle show. This version had more intent, though – it was percice and deliberate. "JaJunk" segued into “Sociable Jimmy,“ followed by a favorite track from their new album Mantis, “Cemetery Walk part I.”
It all built up for what was definitely the highlight of the first set, a long jammed out “Much Obliged.” The bands cris-crossed thru several style changes before locking onto a reggae/rock groove. This gem segued into a newer tune, “1348,“ followed by an aptly placed “Morning Song.” “Wife Soup” was next, probably the other highlight of the first set. This version vas very intense, and it took the audience on a vigorous musical ride before smashing seamlessly back into the closing notes of how this set all started – “Jajunk” owned Atlanta once again.
Set two was soon underway after a quick refill by band and crowd alike. The opening licks of the new tune “Turn and Run” started things off but there was a twist. For the late great Bob Marley, the song had a dubbed out reggae style, a collaboration conceived with the help of Michael G of the Easy Allstars. Next was a moving cover of Derek & the Dominoes’ “Layla,” a tune the boys always nail.
The next section provided the meat of set two, a “Bridgeless > Hangover, Wappy Sprayberry > Bridgeless” sandwich. Ranging from prog-rock sinister to funky grove, then dance party segueing seamlessly back to prog-bliss! Epic is the word that comes to mind. They had more in store, blasting into a blistering rendition of ”Example 1,” and just when it seemed the band was spent, Joel opened with the distinct chords of “Cemetery Walk pt.II.”
After a quick break the guys came back to bid Atlanta farewell with a rare cover of the Who’s “Eminence Front,” which flowed flawlessly into a rocking rendition of “the Floor.” Shuffling out of the venue the magnitude of what had taken place settled in. This was the first of many sold out shows to come here at the Tabernacle. Umphrey’s McGee conquers Atlanta once again.