Sunday, January 07, 2007

My Morning Jacket at the Wiltern

Just returned from the sold-out My Morning Jacket show in K-Town. Fantastic. The band played a 100 minute set followed by at least a half-hour encore. And this wasn't some lazy Dismemberment Plan-style play-one-song-then-blather-for-20-minutes-about-stupid-crap-then-swap-out-every-instrument-then-perform-emergency-instrument-recalibration kind of set. We're talking over two hours of non-stop screechy guitar carnage. Lead singer/songwriter Jim James paused the show only once to compliment the Wiltern's baroque, gaudy interior design.

This was one of those shows that made me appreciate the band's recordings more. There are songs on the last 3 My Morning Jacket albums (I haven't heard their rarer early LP's), but I've never been a big fan or listened to their discs in heavy rotation. But all I could think about after this show was wanting to throw on Z and It Still Moves ASAP.

The show was exceptionally loud and intense, and the band is just fucking tight. Drummer Patrick Hallahan in particular was really kicking my ass. (The crowd loved this guy. Every time the spotlight caught him, the screaming began anew.) The live setting really showcased the band's crazy energy (particularly lead singer James, who flings himself around mid-song, seemingly at random.) The set is fairly elaborate, making it initially appear that the band is playing in the middle of the woods. A little Animal Collective for my tastes, but not too unfortunate. 2 solid hours of the strobe light effects, however, did get a bit jarring. Too much stagecraft and the whole thing gets a little "Spinal Tap."

Most of the evening's highlights came from Z, my favorite of their albums. "Gideon" ruled, ditto "Lay Low" and "Off the Record." I've never been that crazy about the sort of slow-motion jam that finishes out that song, but it made a lot more sense to me somehow in concert. As the band closed out the encore with "Anytime," it finally occured to me why I've always been partial to that song...It sounds like Guided by Voices with all the missing parts filled in, restored to anthemic luster.

The keyboards get emphasized so much on the band's albums, they end up sounding much more guitar-focused live. "Dondante," which closes the Z album, perfectly blended the piano with crunching guitar solos, and highlighted by a saxophone! Amazingly, James is able to match the recording's blistering falsetto vocal in concert.

I took some photos with my camera, but they're allf ar too blurry and embarrassing for publication. So you get no visual aids. Just let my carefully composed language paint a beautiful word picture in your mind.

3 comments:

gohlke said...

You lucky bastard. Seems like bands I want to see much more frequently passed through Los Angeles than they do San Francisco (or "SoFly" as I like to call it). I don't understand this phenomenon. I also don't understand the phenomenon of people not liking MMJ. I guess it's kind of the same people who hear any hint of twang in a guitar and immediately become doubtful of the merit of the music. I think the band just blends so many different styles so seamlessly. Not to mention they have a sound all their own. That's why I've enjoyed the Walkmen so much, even though their original sound arguably only exists on their first record, while MMJ has been doing it much more consistently. ANYwho, check out "At Dawn" if you can. It's one of my favorites of theirs. It may be a little slow at first, but I know you like that sad bastard crap, so I'm sure it will grow on you like a pre-dawn erection.

Lons said...

Yeah, I like "At Dawn," though I listen to it a lot less than the other two albums. I just didn't mention it because they really play many of those songs at the show.

Are there a lot of people who fade MMJ? I still kind of thought of them as indie darlings, but I guess they are past due for the inevitable backlash.

steve c. said...

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