Thursday, October 20th, 2005
Knot Comes Loose
I had been on the fence about attending the My Morning Jacket show last night on account of my well-documented ambievalence about Z and the fact that it was an expensive show. Well a last-minute guest list spot changed my mind (thanks Georgi!), and it didn’t hurt that I’ve been coming around on Z in the last week or so, and last nights show eliminated any bit of fence-sitting that may have remained. In fact, in the afterglow of the show, I will declare that Z is a freakin’ classic.
I last saw My Morning Jacket just over two years ago when they were working the southern rock stylings of It Still Moves, and the material lent itself quite nicely to the explosive live show that MMJ were already known for. Z, however, is a much more eclectic and complex record than its predecessor, with fewer foot-on-the-monitor-approved rock outs. How would it translate live? Really well, actually. Starting off with Z opener “Wordless Chorus”, the band played almost completely in the dark, punctuated by strobe spotlights during the chorus – the effect, coupled with Jim James’ cosmic field holler of a voice, was otherworldly. James’ whooping overtop the outro of that song sounds amazing on record, but when you hear him live, you realize that he was holding back in the studio. Amazing.
That set the tone for the night – by performing the Z material (and the older stuff) flawlessly, My Morning Jacket proved their power as a live act goes far beyond just ripping solos and hair whipping around (though there was still a goodly amount of that). Though they still rock out hard – after all, you don’t strap on the Flying V if you’re not going to rock – they’re now working on a different level completely. They’ve just got that ineffable ability to captivate the audience with their performance – no gimmicks, just music. And volume. Actually, they seemed quite loud but the mix was damn near perfect. At an hour and a half, the set seemed a little short for a veteran jam-band circuit act, but with the thunderous closing one-two punch of “Mahgeetah” and “Anytime”, there’s no way anyone could have asked them to come back and top that. Plus they hit curfew right on the nose.
I’d initially felt a little cheated that Kathleen Edwards, who was supporting MMJ on every other date of the tour, was sitting this one out (likely because she’s got her own headlining show at the Phoenix in less than a month), but was quite pleasantly surprised to find the two acts they enlisted in her stead to be very much up to the task. Megan Hamilton offered up a short and sweet set of plaintive country-ish tunes, with very tasteful backing from electric guitar and drums and quite sophisticated arrangements. She was followed by another local, Royal Wood, whose Rufus Wainwright meets Harry Connick Jr jazzy-folk seemed a bit of an odd fit for the crowd. His smooth tunes, rich voice and sharp, laid back banter did much to win the crowd over.
My Morning Jacket seemed to be very much into the mood lighting, as darkness was very much the theme of the night. When they did hit the lights, they did so with strobes and intense colour gels, basically making photography damn near impossible. Still, I think I did alright. And I know this isn’t the best piece of writing I’ve ever done, and I apologize – but it was late and I was tired. Zzz.
Supplementary materials – Harp has their cover story on the band online (well, co-cover story. They’re also running Liz Phair covers, which is the one my local store had. Oh well, better than Blues Traveller). The Louisville Courier-Journal has a feature on their hometown boys and The Marquee and The Free Times round things off with more band interviews. And as a chaser, Filter points the way to the video for Z‘s first single, “Off The Record”.
The Torontoist week in shows.
np – My Morning Jacket / At Dawn