After hearing of Jim James’ unfortunate fall in Iowa City, its a little tough to write about the great time I had catching My Morning Jacket at the Greek Theater a few weeks back. Jim James has such energy and is totally in command when on stage, it is awful to think that he hurt himself doing what he so seemingly loves to do. Those of us who live in Chicago should know that MMJ is fully committed to its fans, the band will come through Chicago to redeem the postponed shows and burn the house down.
While I was in LA I got the chance to spend “An Evening with My Morning Jacket,” as they so aptly named their concerts on this tour. My Morning Jacket understands the concert experience well, something that they probably learned through ten years of exploits. The show had few down periods of energy unless the band seemed to want it that way; they were constantly in control. They played for a good two and a half hours complete with a five song encore. It was fantastic, I was lucky to see them in such a wonderful venue and for those of you feeling a bit bummed because of no MMJ this weekend, believe me, they’re worth the wait.
The Greek Theater is a wonderful little pavilion set up in the Hollywood Hills. The sound was really great, it never became too crowded and the surrounding trees made the equation simple: just you and the band. MMJ came out around 7:45 and broke right into the big rock sound everyone now knows them for.
The band opened with the spiraling “Evil Urges,” the kick drum mimics a heartbeat in the opening measures and quickly got my own beating in time. Then Jim James jumped in and lit up the night with his amazing vocal spectrum. The song almost beckoned the crowd to give in to the eponymous feelings they themselves were having. From “Evil Urges” the band played a string of harder songs from the new LP and Z that proded the crowd.
“Anytime” was definitely the highlight of the opening three or four songs because it was the first of the extended jams that would dot the night. MMJ would roar into these crazy rock jams throughout the night — as they always do — and really used them well to push the energy to a peak before bringing the crowd back down to earth.
The band rolled into a more tame section for nearly half a dozen songs touching on a number of the great mellow tunes from Evil Urges. The new album has grown on me quite a bit and its 70’s feel is incredible. Some sections of the album are Astral Weeks meets Champagne Jam and I love it. “Sec Walkin” is the epitome of this sound and it showed big time in the live setting. From here, the midsection of the show was nearly all older songs like, “What a Wonderful Man,” “Phone Went West” and “Mahgeetah.” Heavier stuff that was all well played and gave the crowd a good dose of classic MMJ.
My Morning Jacket has these amazing transition songs in their catalogue that they use to either ease the crowd in or out of a typically high energy section of a show. “Gideon” is the king of these songs, the music is big and hard but Jim James’ ringing solos throughout the song keep it emotionally in touch. The song appeared after the string mentioned above and led into some slower songs perfectly. If I ever learn how to play something well on the guitar its gonna be that riff.
Three mellow tunes helped to wind the show down including a favorite of mine, “Smokin from Shootin.” The band finished the main set with the incredible “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream, Pt. 2” complete with Jim James on the omnichord and let it ride out for a good while . This song has such a dark side and it was too fun to get into it live.
My Morning Jacket encored with a number of favorites and threw in “Highly Suspicious” for good fun. Personally the song “Golden” really wrapped up my trip out west, it served as an epilogue and for a number of reasons I was perfectly happy for those few moments. Check out the setlist from LA below and I’m sure everyone shares this sentiment when I say: get better quick Jim James, the music world isn’t right without My Morning Jacket on the scene.
Greek Theatre, Los Angeles 09/21/08
1. Evil Urges
2. Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Pt.1
3. Off The Record
5. I’m Amazed
6. The Way That He Sings
7. Two Halves
8. Thank You Too!
9. Sec Walkin
10. I Will Sing You Songs
11. What A Wonderful Man
13. Lay Low
14. Phone Went West
18. Smokin From Shootin
19. Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Pt.2
21. Wordless Chorus
22. Highly Suspicious
23. Run Thru
24. One Big Holiday