Umphrey's McGee produces its first concert video, drawn from shows at the Skyline Stage in its home base of Chicago, IL, on July 26 and 27, 2002. The band, which at this point had made three live albums and only one studio disc, clearly felt most comfortable on-stage, and that comes across during a 94-minute set that makes plenty of room for guitar solos, piano solos, bass solos, and drum and percussion solos during the group's densely played, highly arranged, quickly changing songs. Each tune seems to be constructed from musical sections that have been carefully rehearsed so that the sudden tempo shifts and changes of emphasis come effortlessly. At one point or another, guitarist Brendan Bayliss, guitarist Jake Cinninger, and/or keyboard player Joel Cummins may sing a mouthful of words, scat, or otherwise make vocal sounds, but the lyrics, such as they are, are only one minor element in the musical arrangements. What really matters is the group interaction in instrumental work that fits into the jam band category in the sense that it is highly improvised (particularly in the two "Jimmy Stewart" sections, the actor's name as a title serving to indicate that the musicians are playing free), but that might also be called jazz-rock fusion if it were being made in the 1970s, and that any Frank Zappa fan would recognize easily. (Indeed, Cinninger looks a little like, and plays a little like, former Zappa bandmember and King Crimson stalwart Adrian Belew.) The result is music that is more impressive technically than moving emotionally; maybe in time Umphrey's McGee will learn to play with their hearts as well as their fingers.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann