Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Weekend at Webster Hall

The psychedelic rock band sold out their three nights in New York for the world tour of their newest album, ‘V’



UMO performed songs from their fifth and most recent studio album release, “V,” and other hits from their discography.


On a Friday night on April 14 — during one of the first hot days of the spring season — one could feel the energy blooming in the crowd at Webster Hall in anticipation of Unknown Mortal Orchestra (UMO), a New Zealand psychedelic rock band set to take the stage at 9 p.m. Recognized as the first modern nightclub, the Queen Anne-style venue was built in 1886 and has been an iconic home to many great performances, including those from artists like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Prince and Madonna. After shows from April 13 to 16, UMO has joined their ranks. 

The night began with Seafoam Walls, an alternative and indie band, performing as the opening act for UMO. Their sound — self-described “Caribbean Jazzgaze,” or a mixture of jazz, shoegaze, rock, hip-hop and Afro-Caribbean beats — was a fitting precursor for a night of trippy rock. The crowd applauded the openers, who were clearly moved by the audience’s appreciation. The fans’ enthusiasm was an indicator of a great concert to come. 

It was clear fans were there for the band’s old music as much as they were there for the debut of their new album.

Following Seafoam Walls, UMO came out on stage to perform their most recent album, “V.” They opened their concert with “The Garden,” a hit from the new release, and the song’s mellow dream-pop style carried a sonic texture that set the tone for the night’s performance. 

Throughout the evening, the crowd’s energy swelled as they synchronized their head bobs, immersing themselves in UMO’s music. As for the band, there was a clear rapport among the members as they communicated through unanimously understood nods and smiles.

“It means a lot to us that you let us play our old stuff,” the lead vocalist, Ruban Nielson, said between songs. When they played “From the Sun” — one of their most popular songs with over 10.9 million streams — off of their 2013 album “II,” the audience sang along word for word. Peaceful and simultaneously energetic, the crowd’s liveliness was touching. It was clear fans were there for the band’s old music as much as they were there for the debut of their new album. Filled with funky instrumentals — including a sax solo played by Nielson’s father, Chris Nielson, who joined them on tour — the crowd expressed their enthusiasm through cheers, whistles and wild dance moves. 

The show’s lighting contributed to the mellow, understated vibe. Rather than distracting from the performance, the colored lights were paired well with each song. Their intensity matched the tempo. Compared to Seafoam Walls’ opening act, during which the beats drowned out lead vocalist Jayan Bertrand, the volume of UMO’s instrumentals and vocals was well-balanced. 

The song’s mellow dream-pop style carried a sonic texture that set the tone for the night’s performance.

Coming back on stage after closing the set with “Multi-Love,” the titular song from their eponymous third studio album, UMO kicked off the encore with “Meshuggah,” one of the tracks from their new album, followed by a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street.” The crowd cheered as Nielson, with a joking slap of the mic, warned it would be their first time playing the second cover of the night, “Movin’ Out” by Billy Joel. Pleasantly surprised by the funky revamp, the audience danced along in approval. 

Evidently, the encore was the highlight of the show. In addition to their jazzy covers, the band played their greatest hits, including “Hunnybee,” from their fourth studio album, “Sex and Food,” and — my personal favorite — “That Life,” a track from their newest album. At the commencement of “That Life,” you could sense the anticipation in the crowd building. Like clockwork, as soon as UMO played the first chord, the entire audience reacted with cheers.

Ending the evening with “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone,” another track from “Multi-Love,” you couldn’t help but dance to the song’s groovy beats. Equally as irresistible was the band’s merch; its kaleidoscopic and trippy art matched the band’s experimental, colorful style. Admittedly, I caved and bought a t-shirt, joining the line wrapping around the corner. 

Entering the concert, I was excited to hear my favorite hits that I was first introduced to last year. It was not until after the concert, however, that I would say I considered myself a fan. Adding nearly the entire setlist to my Spotify, I’ve continued to enjoy the songs from the concert in the weeks that followed and the memories from my Friday night at Webster Hall. From doors open to close, the concert was an upbeat success, with showcomers raving as they spilled out onto the city streets. Performing internationally, UMO will be on tour until late October, returning to Miami for their closing night after a summer of shows in Europe.