Wednesday, July 13th, 2011
My Morning Jacket at The Kool Haus in Toronto
Frank YangI suspect my personal history with My Morning Jacket reads like many others’; discovered them circa At Dawn, was rocked by It Still Moves, had my mind blown by Z and was confounded by Evil Urges. I haven’t spent enough time with their latest Circuital yet to know how that chapter will play out, but while I bemoan the absence of even a token all-out rocker, it does feel as advertised – a return to their roots, even if they’ve brought many of the creative and musical souvenirs picked up along the trip so far with them.
Not that a final judgement on their latest effort was necessary to decide to catch their long-awaited return to Toronto – the Kentucky quintet were a fearsome live act since the first time I saw them way back in 2003 and in the years since they’ve graduated to major festival headliner status, become more creatively fearless and simply become one of the most interesting rock bands going, all without forgetting about the simple joy of bearing down and riffing the fuck out. My excuse for missing their last visit in June 2008 was seeing them a few months earlier at a Beautiful Noise taping, but all that really meant was that it was almost six years on from the last time I saw them play a proper Toronto show. Far too long.
Still, they were the ones apologizing a little ways into Monday night’s show at the Kool Haus, with frontman Jim James saying they’d wanted to come back sooner but simply hadn’t been able to. Maybe that’s why they made the rare move of dispensing with an opening act and treating us to an extended-length set, even by their standards. The show kicked off with “Victory Dance”, the lead song from Circuital, and James stalking the stage and waving his arms about like some carnival barker/madman and pretty much didn’t stop for the next two and a half hours. There’s a temptation to regard My Morning Jacket as a jam band – and for certain, they’re not averse to stretching their songs out to epic length – but that’s too reductive; the degree of physicality and theatricality that they put into their shows is as crucial to the experience as the many notes that they play. My Morning Jacket aren’t just there to play, they’re there to perform.
The epic-length show did an admirable job of representing not only the breadth of their catalog but all the stylistic facets of My Morning Jacket; no mean feat for a band that straddles so many genres and puts its own unique spin on each and every one. Barnburners like “Gideon” and “Anytime” showcased them at their hair-whipping, guitar-soloing finest while slowing down without going small on “Golden”, “Phone Went West” and “Movin’ Away”, the last of which incited not a few incidences of slow-dancing in the audience; be it slow jams or psychotic reactions, everyone was along for every step of the ride. Watching the show crest, ebb and crest again, I was struck by how even though some of their albums might be regarded as less than successful creative forays (Evil Urges I’m looking in your direction), when regarded in the context of entire the My Morning Jacket songbook, they make much more sense. The initial expeditions into uncharted terrain might be bumpy, but once that territory is charted they’ve that much more raw material to work with. You won’t find many bands capable of balancing such a clear musical identity with artistic restlessness.
These are all thoughts that crossed my mind over the course of the show, frequently punctuated with variants of, “holy shit these guys just keep going”. There was the equivalent of two of three sets from other bands in there, but when they loaded up for the monolithic “Run Thru”, you got the sense that they were moving into the final act and indeed, following a sprawling “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream”, it was up to “Mahgeetah” to close out the set in grand and extended fashion. The set, but not the show. The encore ran an extra thirty-plus minutes and if you wanted a six-song sampler of what makes My Morning Jacket so wonderfully weird and wonderful, those selections would have done the job. From the haunting “Wordless Chorus” through the psych-soul of “Holdin’ On To Black Metal”, into the ridicu-funk of “Highly Suspicious” and finally appropriately culminating with “One Big Holiday”, it was a long, strange, exhausting and amazing trip.
Photos: My Morning Jacket @ The Kool Haus – July 11, 2011
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “You Wanna Freak Out”
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “Circuital”
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “Butch Cassidy” (live at Terminal 5)
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “The Way That He Sings” (live at Terminal 5)
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “One Big Holiday” (live at Terminal 5)
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “It Beats 4 U” (live at Terminal 5)
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “Smokin’ From Shootin'” (live at Terminal 5)
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “Off The Record”
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “One Big Holiday”
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “The Dark”
MP3: My Morning Jacket – “Heartbreakin’ Man”
Video: My Morning Jacket – “Off The Record”
Having just announced the September 13 release date for their new record Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Girls have put together a North American tour that stops in at the Mod Club on September 27, tickets $16.50 in advance.
MP3: Girls – “Laura”
Evan Dando and whomever he’s calling The Lemonheads right now will give the people what they want and tour It’s A Shame About Ray in its entirety this Fall. Presumably they will pad out the set with material from other records, given that their most popular album clocks in at like 33 minutes including, I believe, their cover of “Mrs Robinson”. I personally think they should flesh out the set with live-action recreations of the videos, but that’s just me. Blurt has details on the tour and full dates, including the October 17 stop at Lee’s Palace in Toronto.
Eric Bachmann is the man of the hour – Spin gets him, in the capacity of Archers Of Loaf frontman, to list off some new music he’s listening to; Icky Mettle gets a deluxe reissue on August 2. It was also announced that the new Crooked Fingers record Breaks In The Armor would be put out on October 11 by Merge (who’re also doing the Archers reissues) and a video trailer released to go with it. And finally, The AV Club gets Crooked Fingers to cover Gershwin’s “Summertime” for their AV Undercover series on a Chicago rooftop.
Spin is streaming both discs of R.E.M.’s remastered and reissued edition of Lifes Rich Pageant – possibly probably still my favourite of their records – while Rolling Stone reports the band has already begun working on the follow up to this year’s Collapse Into Now.