Saturday, September 20, 2008

Live Review: My Morning Jacket

My Morning Jacket

Greek Theater
Berkeley, California

You know a band is special when they can control the weather.

Just prior to taking the stage, My Morning Jacket was able to convince Mother Nature to stop the rainy mist that had enveloped the Greek Theater in Berkeley for much of the past hour and allow the band to play a stunning 3 hour rock show for it's ever growing legion of fans.

Touring in support of 2008's fan-dividing Evil Urges album, My Morning Jacket ripped the studio sheen off the new songs and exposed each song's raw rock 'n roll nerve as well as treated fans to early-career gems like "Phone Went West" and "War Begun".

After an overture blast of loud feedback and crashing percussion, the band locked into the proggish reggae rhythm of"Evil Urges" followed by the electronic pulses of "Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 1". Like Radiohead did with the electronic leanings of Kid A, MMJ applied their manic stage energy to each electronic bleep and beat from songs off the new album, revealing a band that has added some new colors to their already colorful musical palette.

These new musical textures that began to appear on 2005's Z have taken full bloom in concert: Reggae, Prog, 80s R&B, and Psychedelia have joined MMJ's trademark brand of celestial southern rock to create the BIG rock show. Combined with an impressive light show, MMJ made a case for being one of the most ferocious live bands out on the road today.

Expertly controlling the pace of the show with a nice balance of rockers like "Aluminum Park" and "Off the Record" and drifty songs like "Librarian" and "Golden", My Morning Jacket took the Bay Area crowd on a rollercoaster ride through their musical discography.

Songs are now epic hurricanes of sound and emotion. "Smokin from Shootin" "Run Thru" and "Dondante" filled the amphitheater with swirls of guitar, piano and percussion. And the bass. The BASS. Like medievil cannons firing on the hillside, sub-sonic booms from bassist Two Tone Tomm rattled the concrete slabs of the Greek all night.

"The Bay Area looks like a glossy, misty Scottish battlefield." said lead singer Jim James, referring to the rainy mist from earlier. Through out the night, James often donned a black cape while singing his R&B inflected falsetto vocals on songs like "Wordless Chorus" and the electro-funk of "Highly Suspicious", before grabbing his Flying V guitar and ripping into a guitar shredding dual with fellow guitarist Carl Broemel.

The years on the road have transformed MMJ into a finely tuned musical engine. It's indescribable how effortless things appear to be when watching the band perform. Drummer Patrick Hallahan's Keith Moon like energy, keyboardist Bo Koster's electronic symphony of beats and sounds, Carol Bromemels saxophone and pedal steel flourishes on songs like "Dondante" and "Cobra" and Jim James control of his otherworldly vocal reverb are reasons why this band's following continues to grow while the music business falls further and further apart.

Ending with the one-two punch of "Anytime" and the epic "One Big Holiday", MMJ sent fans and new converts out into the streets of Berkeley with big wide grins and a beautiful ringing in the ears.

Ignore the mixed reactions to Evil Urges and get out there and see these guys live.

set list
evil urges
touch me pt 1
off the record
aluminum park
way that he sings
im amazed
wonderful man
sec walkin
war begun
thank you too
phone went west
smoking from shootin
touch me pt 2
run thru
wordless chorus
highly suspicious
one big holiday

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