Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Morning Jacket at the Chicago Theater 12/28/08

Having seen My Morning Jacket’s four-hour show at Bonnaroo, one ranked as Stereogum’s third best concert of the year and one of Entertainment Weekly’s best entertainment events of the year, one would predict a run of the mill tour stop to be slightly less impressive. And were the two Chicago shows played on the fall tour as scheduled, perhaps that would have been the case. However, when frontman Jim James injured himself, the October dates were pushed back to a December two-pack to warm the Jacket up for their New Year’s Eve extravaganza at Madison Square Garden.

After a few months off the road, MMJ had to bring their A-game to these theater shows. Seeing the precision with which they perform their country-metal though, I doubt they have any other type of game. At their second of the Chicago Theater dates (James noting that the venue looked like the inside of a brain), they zoomed from the Byrds to Black Sabbath and back, hitting their most steel-guitar croon-ey on cuts like “Thank You Too!” and their most balls-out rock with “Remnants” and “Run Thru.” There exists no tighter band, equally at home swaying to acoustic rhythms as head-banging to electric thrashing. Along the way they even touched on some funk, on the epic “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2” and the grunge-funk “Highly Suspicious,” coming complete with a throbbing strobe light show to match the distorted yelling.

Though they stayed away from the covers marathon of Bonnaroo, Sunday’s show spanned their five-album discography, giving early Americana albums like At Dawn as much play as their later electronic Z. The centerpiece, though, was Evil Urges, which the local DJ who introduced them aptly noted was one of the best discs of the year. They hit eight out of the thirteen tracks tonight, from the distortion falsetto of the title track to a solo acoustic “Look At You” to open the encore. Mixing the songs in with older fan favorites and back-catalogue rarity, they proved the new material could match their best, no matter how bizarre it got (see “Highly Suspicious”).

Throughout the two-and-a-half hour show the band’s energy never flagged, whether it was James doing other-worldly falsetto cries on “Wordless Chorus” or Patrick Hallahan giving the drums an unrelenting pummeling on the set-closer “Run Thru,” where lights, volume and passion propelled a ten minute riff marathon while the band flailed and jumped around. Everything came together one last time for their best-known song “One Big Holiday,” so known because of its blaring live performances, the band headbanging as hard as the crowd. Their “Born to Run,” it left the crowd gasping for breath as the band left the stage. They’re ready for New Year’s.


1. At Dawn
2. It Beats 4 U
3. Evil Urges
4. I'm Amazed
5. Gideon
6. What A Wonderful Man
7. Golden
8. I Will Sing You Songs
9. Lowdown
10. Sooner
11. Thank You Too!
12. Anytime
13. Remnants
14. Lay Low
15. Highly Suspicious
16. Off The Record
17. I Think I'm Going To Hell
18. Smokin’ From Shootin’
19. Touch Me I'm Going To Scream Pt.2
20. Run Thru
21. Look At You (Jim James solo)
22. Nashville To Kentucky
23. Steam Engine
24. Cobra
25. Wordless Chorus
26. One Big Holiday

1 comment:

Caseydog said...

Nice review. Sunday was a great show. It was a little off beat compared to other MMJ shows I've seen. This was #10 for me since 2005.

You've got some of my pics in your blog (set list and last pic)

I hope to see your recording surface soon!