My Morning Jacket – Live at Verizon Amphitheater

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Weekend concerts are so much kinder than weeknight shows.  Aware that My Morning Jacket (MMJ) has a fan base that travels, my concert buddy and I figured, rightly, that this would be a good show for arriving early and “tailgating,” as such things go.  We arrived early, and enjoyed watching the (generally younger) crowd enjoy their drinks, socializing, bean toss games and general hanging out.

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We talked a bit with a couple that drew near due to the Rory Gallagher guitar licks emanating from my car, another couple from work who sought us out, and a young couple parked next to us who were happy to have a night out without lost abbeytheir nine month old.  (It’s a good thing; I don’t think the infant (or the police) would have appreciated what they were smoking in their car).

Properly fortified by pretzels, home cooked burgers, and Lost Abbey ales, we finally made our way into the venue.  As it turned out, we were so certain that the show started at 8:00 that we missed a good bit of the opening set by Neko Case, who we were both interested in hearing.  Sadly, it was a ho-hum performance, without much energy or, for that matter, much sound coming off the stage.  She’s well regarded and probably fares better in a smaller venue.  I very much enjoyed her contributions to Jacob Dylan’s last CD.

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The stage change didn’t take long, but long enough for everyone to press forward and get situated for sight lines.  But then, just a few minutes before the band takes the stage, there’s the “Excuse me! Coming through!” crowd who had stepped away, in fact, the entire time until now, to go fetch beers.  Never mind that they’re (always) much taller than the friends they join.  Such is life in General Admission floor areas, and it’s expected.  I really, reallyIMG_5127 need to figure out how to get media credentials so I can take closer photos, not to mention bring a better camera. 

Aside, what guy gets a standing area ticket for his date?  Sure, they can dance or, well, maybe not.  There’s no room in the throng.  What’s the female opinion of this?  Is the company more important than seeing?  Because at 5’5” or shorter, it’s a challenge.  Now, the guy with the balding head pictured at right… he can only blame himself.

And so, the light dims and the show begins.  My first observation was that MMJ favors very striking stage lighting.  The second quickly followed, which was, “Aha.  Finally, a rock show by a band who knows how it should look and sound.”  They began with “Victory Dance,” the opener of their latest CD, and rattled off a succession of new songs and several older ones that promised a very, very entertaining evening.  Lead singer Jim James travels the stage, the lead guitarist can flat play, and the drummer arrived directly from the mid 1970’s, back when drummers understood that they actually can have a stage presence.

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But, then… having played “Outta My System,” MMJ slowed down with song selections, became more adventurous (to be kind), and, to my ears, lost their vibe (and often their visibility in low lights).   “Dondante” was a 20 minute (or was it 10 minutes?) noodling jam that got a rise from the crowd whenever it seemed they were finding their pulse, and by its end, I think the applause was mostly that it was finally over.  When the conversations of the crowed are as audible as the band, it’s a good sign that the crowd has lost interest (unless you’re at Chastain, where that’s normal).   

After the extended snooze, would they step it back up? 

No, instead they played “Slow, Slow Tune.”  It’s a nice enough song, but… Then they fired up “Black Metal,” a rocking song that sparked life back into the crowed, and they closed with “Mahgeetah” which was decent, or, at least much better than the last 5 or so songs.. 

The encore opened with two winners and then to “Cobra,” a song that wasn’t released on an album but which appreciated by their core fans as it’s not heard much.  But, at that point, my buddy and I were of the opinion that a cold bottled water would be much more appreciated than anything the band had left.  So, we missed the final three songs, and it’s worth noting that we rarely miss any.  I would have enjoyed the Neko Case collaboration, but… I needed the water more.

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Overall, MMJ has enough good material that I was disappointed on this particular setlist. They played heavily from their new CD and from It Still Moves, a CD which has a slower paced charm, but I’d prefer a heavier dose of the rocking Z.  MMJ plays a number of styles – indie rock, Americana, etc., and they detour into psychedelic rock or “jam band” when playing live.  Still, I was very disappointed that they seemed uninspired in the second half.  This falls to James, as the band played well.  And kudos to drummer Patrick Hallahan, a great one to watch.

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Other photos are can be seen HERE.

3 of 5 STARS

 

 

Setlist:

Victory Dance
Circuital
You Wanna Freak Out
Off the Record
I’m Amazed
Gideon
Golden
Outta My System
Smokin From Shootin
Run Thru
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream (Part 2)
Dondante
Slow Slow Tune
Holdin’ On to Black Metal
Mahgeetah

Encore:

Wordless Chorus
The Day is Coming
Cobra
Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (w/ Neko Case)
Dancefloors
One Big Holiday

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