October 20, 2011
Memorial Gymnasium - Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN USA
Review by William Meckfessel
Photos by Christopher Durst
My Morning Jacket
When one is watching Jim James sing, it quickly becomes clear that he has seen the ever-elusive god of musical genius and has come back a prophet. And it's not like he's trying to hide it. In "Victory Dance," the first song of My Morning Jacket's new album Circuital and of the show, in the first line James sings, "Should I close my eyes, and prophesize?" And now - at his live performances - he's determined to share what was revealed to him with his audience. You're never sure what he's selling - only that you want it, whatever it is.
MMJ kicked off the show with songs from their newest record and then went into a lengthy, three-hour set list that spanned their entire 13-year career (still nothing compared in length to the set they played at Bonnaroo a few years ago). They continued the set with a number of songs off more recent work like "I'm Amazed" and "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)" (which was performed with Matthew Ward of She & Him), all of which went nicely with songs off Z, the album that established the band. In fact, when James played the intro into "Off the Record" it drew one of the biggest cheers I've ever heard for a song, only proving that he had us in the palm of his hand. They closed the show with early MMJ tunes like "Mahgeetah" and "Phone Went West."
However, despite this strong lineup of powerful songs, the crowd seemed to start losing interest somewhere after about an hour into the show. In between songs the audience would chat amongst each other and discuss what a hardcore MMJ fan should be called (the final decision was Morning Glories, in case you were wondering) instead of waiting in anticipation for what the band was going to do next. This may not necessarily be the band's fault, but perhaps only a little too much weed and alcohol reaching its peak effect, for this was not the case during Everest's, the opening act, set. In fact, the lead singer of Everest commented on the strong fragrance just starting to rise from the floor. "It smells really good out there," he said laughing, "It probably makes us sound better…and play better." But this didn't last and the crowd even began singing along with "Wordless Chorus."
The back-to-back encores of MMJ were, honestly, the best I've seen in my concert-going years. The first part of the encore ended with the Evil Urges epic "Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 2", and the spine-curdling screech of "Good Intentions" startled every person in the room (despite their level of herbal enjoyment). And when they came back out on stage to do the second encore, the Preservation Hall Jazz band joined them, providing horn parts that got the audience rocking again.
This concert, in short, blew my mind. And that's not what was in the air talking. It's hard not to sound like a total die-hard fan kissing one's favorite band's ass, but these guys deserve a good ass kissing and I don't know how I could possibly describe it any other way. Even my skeptical companion, who wasn't much of a fan and had only heard My Morning Jacket songs in passing, thanked me for taking them along. After this show, I am more than proud to be a Morning Glory.