Live review: Gov't Mule @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Reverb - Reverb

Live review: Gov't Mule @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre


Whether on covers or his own songs, Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes hit all the right notes at Red Rocks on Sunday. Photos and text by Candace Horgan.

I worship guitarists in general, and have ever since I fell in love with rock ‘n’ roll after hearing Led Zeppelin when I was 10. However, there are guitarists and there is Warren Haynes, one of the hardest working artists in rock. The night after Haynes played with the Allman Brothers, he was back at Red Rocks to play with his band Gov’t Mule.

Haynes is a master of tone, and I could listen to to him play scales all night. However, Sunday’s show at Red Rocks proved an unwitting lesson in the importance of tone as it relates to a band’s ability to connect with the audience.


Umphrey’s McGee, a.k.a Phish Lite, opened the show, and they fared poorly compared to Haynes. Throughout their 90-minute set, every song seemed structured the same, starting with some reggae-style riffs, moving into heavy rock, then opening into a long jam that had no purpose other than to show that they could jam.

Whereas a good jam band like Gov’t Mule or the Grateful Dead jams to explore something interesting they’ve written, Umphrey’s McGee’s meandering, noodling jams seemed to exist just to show the crowd they were a jam band, rather than the fact that they were excited about what they were playing — and wanted to explore it more. Besides, they lacked tone. Most of their rhythms and leads were choppy, lacking sustain or any semblance of emotion.


Occasionally, Umphrey’s did capture something, as during the dual solos between guitarists Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger during “The Bottom Half.” However, for the most part, the band had trouble connecting with the crowd.


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  • Nick

    Nice review. Wish I had gone! Haynes covere a nice variety of material from the sounds of it.

  • fred

    this review is bad because of its untimeliness.

  • wtf?

    Were you even listening? Your review of the Umphrey’s set sounds as if you arrived after they were finished and threw some words together. How did you ever become a music journalist?

    Poor form…

  • Jon

    Wow, this chick must have gotten some sweet Govt. merch for writing such a biased review. It’s like you went into that show just waiting to see your main man, Warren Haynes, and were incredibly impatient with all of Umphrey’s set. Try gathering research about the musical performers you plan to see, and review. The mind numbing conclusions you have made about that opening band is a perfect example of how the Journalism field is full of unobservant children. Congratulations for possibly the worst music review of all time.

    -Not an Umphrey’s fan.

  • Kevin

    Phish Lite? Give me a break. Do some homework.

  • EEL

    You are a bad reporter… you can’t just trash a bad especially since most of the crowd loved Umphrey’s… try writing reviews like this and maybe you’ll start getting paid:

  • Jesse

    I thoroughly enjoyed the entire evening.

    It was my opinion that Umphrey’s played a strong opening set, and those around me in the crowd certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves. Umphrey’s does have a more progressive edge, and this isn’t everyone’s bag… especially those who are exclusively fans of “jam band” music.

    The Mule show was absolutely outstanding as well. Warren is an amazing player and soul was dripping off of the rocks on this night… song selection, energy, and delivery were all on point.

    All in all it was a fantastic evening.

  • JTZ

    Wow. Talk about an ignorant review. I’m not sure what Umphrey’s show you were watching, apparently not the same as the rest of us. Umph is not Phish, thank God, but lighter than Phish? Haha, that’s laughable. I love how you open with how you love guitarists in general, but then bash some of the best guitarists and their band on the scene today. Did you listen to more than three songs? From your review, sounds like you hear Higgins and The Bottom Half>Glory>The Bottom Half. Umphrey’s is one of the tighest bands on the scene, hope you’ll get it one day!

  • Matt

    Great review of the Gov’t Mule show. Don’t know what Candace was hearing when Umphrey’s McGee was playing but it certainly wasn’t them. Her review of UM didn’t capture even the slightest lick of their performance. She clearly wasn’t standing in the first quarter of rows where the crowd was raging as Jake and Brendan melted their faces.

    Additionally, reviewing their performance does not require her to compare them to Warren Haynes. Obviously he (Haynes) is a legendary guitarist. It’s not about being better or more soulful. It’s about listening to each act as a unique piece of art. Hopefully she listens a little more closely next time and isn’t so quick to pass judgement on them as “Phish-lite” before she even has a chance to hear their set.

  • Rick

    The way you wrote this review it seems that you already had your mind made up about Umphrey’s McGee before even seeing them. First off, your comment that they are “Phish lite” is way off base. In terms of sound and playing style Umphrey’s McGee and Phish are not at all alike. The only thing that really binds them is that they are both considered to be jam bands.

    Your comment that all of their songs followed the same format of starting off with a reggae theme and leading into a hard rock style could not be more incorrect. Although I did not attend this show nor listened to the recording, I know all of the songs on the setlist well and only one could resemble what you described (Higgins). Their set contained songs that vary from showing elements of electronic music (Wappy Sprayberry) to surf (cover of Pipeline), as well as a jam based off of Norwegian Wood, a Beatles tune.

    As far as playing with emotion and such, that is purely based on opinion so I can not refute your statements pertaining to that. However, I will beg to disagree and suggest that all of Umphrey’s members are quite talented. I suggest that you try to give them another listen but this time with open ears.

  • Anonymous

    What a bad review. Did you even listen? This person doesn’t even know what good music sounds like. They hear Warren Haynes name and are like, I know that guy, he’s good.

  • Anonymous

    Candace, were you even listening to Umphrey’s? It sounds like you got there for the beginning of Higgins and left after the Bottom Half. You should catch a full two set show from Umphrey’s. “opening into a long jam that had no purpose other than to show that they could jam.” Seriously?

  • Joe

    It’s nice that you can’t leave abusive comments but you allow abusive reviews. “Phish Lite”. Why does Umphreys have to be compared to Mr. Haynes, and be preceded by an abusive comment. “Where as a good jam band”, “jams seemed to exist to show the crowd they were a jam band”. Do your homework. They play PROG-ROCK.

  • Kyle

    what a poor review. I love Mule and UM, and the way you got on your knees and worshipped Mule, while ripping UM a new one because you don’t get what they do was pretty said. I can honestly say I haven’t read such a useless review of any concert in awhile. Maybe try seeing UM again sometime with an open mind (and maybe with a little research on their material), not with some pre-conceived notions of what they’re like (your Phish-lite comment shows much ignorance).

  • Denver Umphreak

    You ignant.

    UM Rules

  • ryan k

    funny, were we at the same show? Umphrey’s McGee killed their set. Phish Lite is an insult. how did you get your job? Govt Mule was incredibly boooring.

  • sloppy

    While I lived in Denver, I considered the Denver Post to be a decent paper. Yet, by hiring journalists like this they’ve seriously downgraded their status to “rag”. What a ridiculous review.

    I’m sure by reading these comments, you will be upset. Don’t take it personally. Just concentrate your efforts on finding a new line of work. Journalism certainly must not be it.


  • Phil from Boston

    Your “Phish Lite” comment shows that you are ignorant of what Umphrey’s is all about. I suggest doing a little research or going to a few shows before laying down such a silly statement. Very amateurish to say the least. I would argue that Umphrey’s is the best live act there is and I know of a few thousand people who would agree. I am at a loss for words . . . .

  • ryan k

    “journalism lite”

  • Anonymous

    Umphrey’s rules. Get a clue hippie….Jake and BB are 2 of the best around and NOBODY is doing what they do….because most can’t….

  • MIDWESTpeeps

    Please stay out of the MIDWEST u suck at life

    have a nice day

  • JJW

    To be forward, I was rather unimpressed with Umphrey’s McGee
    in my first time trying them. To be polite, they were not my cup
    of tea, and I’m a longtime progressive rock fan.

    As for the Mule, that was a high quality show that complemented
    the Allmans’ epic set from the night before.

    Don’t let these bastards get you down, Candace!

  • James P.

    omg… this thread is hilarious. clearly this review was picked up by an umphrey’s-humping message board and now they’re taking shots at the writer simply for having an opinion.

    dear umphrey’s losers: i’m pretty sure these reverb writers aren’t denver post staff writers, and anyway, who cares if they were? this isn’t journalism, it’s criticism, and you can’t argue with someone’s opinion. (plus, umphrey’s does suck… i’m sorry but it’s true.)

  • Jonboy

    Dear Denver Post,

    Please don’t let amateurs write for your professional publication. I don’t even like Umphrey’s and I was offended by this review.

    This is just plain awful


    The INternet

  • Molly S.

    My oh my, all this debate over a terrible band? Umphrey’s fans are more defensive than Republicans!

  • Garth

    Oh my God, is this going to be the new ‘Journey’ thread?

  • .

    I find these comments to be a little inmature. I am a big time Umprhey’s fan, but seriously? You are possibly ruining someones career just because you don’t like their opinion? On the flip side, the reporter shouldn’t have talked about UM the way she did, but I’m not going to put her job at risk because of it. Let’s grow up Umphreaks.

  • Ty

    Just because you don’t understand the UM doesn’t mean you must bash them.

    Cinniger of Um > Haynes

    Bayliss of Um > Haynes.

    perhaps not in soul. but technicality, there’s no comparison. perhaps you need to to train your brain to hear the band collectively, rather than puzzle yourself trying to figure out what a particular member is playing… my $.02

    and for those who consider themselves prog rock fans…. this was not a proggy UM set, but rather one to get the crowd pumped for gov’t mule…. please, if they played prog, the review would’ve been worse and most mule fans would have returned to the lot until the set was over.

  • Denver Umphreak

    Don’t mess with UM or you feel the wrath of… DAS BORT!

    seriously, good turn out people

  • Joshua

    Everyone has an opinion ant they all suck.

  • NotImpressed

    umphrey’s humping – gotta love that!

    Thank goodness the INternet is trying to keep amateurs out of the way, and make room for all those INternet professionals!

  • Bree Davies

    I’d like to respond to James P.’s comment a few posts above-

    I totally agree that this piece was most likely put through the pin ball machine of a band message board. As a writer for Reverb, I’ve had this happen to one of my pieces, and it totally sucks. It’s hard to hear harsh words about your favorite band, but when criticism is taken to a level where the attack is placed on a writer personally, I think that’s where the line is crossed. Not everyone is going to love your favorite band…and not every time your favorite band plays a show is it going to be good. Take reviews for what they are…reviews, not personal statements about a band.

    And as for the second part to James’ comment, yes, we are journalists, not just writers or critics. Criticism is part of journalism. I can’t speak for Candace, but I have a degree in journalism, and I take pride in the pieces I write for this blog.

    If as writers for this blog we made every show sound peachy and didn’t criticize, we’d be accused of being soft in the middle or biased. So give Candace a break.

  • c.mon

    This article is weak.

    Even if you aren’t the biggest UM fan, you can sense the ignorance of this writer. Sounds like she was too busy slobbin’ Warren Haynes’ knob to get a real POV on the UM show.

  • schnozberrys

    It sounds like you are reviewing UM based on one concert. In a sense, that’s like judging a very long novel when you have only read the first chapter (possibly not even that much).

  • KSUmphreak

    “I worship guitarists in general.”

    Were you not listening to ‘glory’??… or to any of jake cinninger’s playing?

    Oh, and way to kick off that 4th paragraph with a conjunction. I bet you paid as much attention in school as you did to Umphrey’s set.

  • Melvin

    Bad music critic!

    How dare you express your opinion? What do you think this is, a free country?

    Back to the Gulag, wench!

  • Tido

    I was at the show. I like both bands. Umphrey’s left me wanting more, I left early during Mule but cause they left me wanting to go to bed. The ‘Phish Lite’ comment is what I think is getting people all worked up. It is just a horrible comparison. That Candace didn’t like UM doesn’t suprise me…they are not everyone’s bag. But to throw them in the ‘these guys are trying to ride on Phish’s coattails’ pigeon hole demonstrates that she went to the show with a closed mind, or at least did not pay too much attention to what was going on during UM’s set.

  • the world

    i have heard umphrey’s play alot of subpar sets, however, there is not an ounce of original thought in your review, it seems as though you weren’t paying attention or went in with a thought in your head of what they sounded like…phish lite…come on. there are millions of reasons to ciritcize a band, but it’s fairly obvious that you didnt give umphrey’s a fair shot or even an original criticism,. and for what it’s worth, your guitar god has had both jake and brendan of umphrey’s sit in on multiple occasions, and vice versa with haynes sitting in with umphrey’s, obviously haynes thinks enough of the band to give them an honest listen, you should do the same.