What’s that you say? You’ve never listened to My Morning Jacket?
Fine. I’ll wait. Go get yourself a My Morning Jacket album based on the following criteria: if you like guitar-rock, get It Still Moves; if you like spacey, Flaming Lips-esque stuff, get Z; if you like strummy country rock, get At Dawn; if you like all of the above, get Evil Urges.
If you’ve followed the above prescription and you live in Los Angeles, you have just a taste of what you missed last night at The Greek Theatre.
The show was billed as “An Evening with My Morning Jacket.” Meaning there was no opening act for me to fret over (opening acts are always a delicate thing – sometimes they’re awesome like when Band of Horses opened for the Decemberists, and sometimes they’re fuck-terrible like when Sean Na Na opened for The Hold Steady) or drink my way through. My Morning Jacket took the stage at 8pm while some zany-ass music played over the PA. Jim James, Flying-V strapped over his shoulder, was already jumping up and down (dude gets ridiculously fired up to play live) as Patrick Hallahan (best drummer in rock right now) beat the opening of “Evil Urges” into the night air. And we were off. MMJ followed “Evil Urges” with “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 1” and then, without saying a word to the audience at this point, they jumped right into the best song of 2005: “Off the Record” (it’s from Z. Are you listening to it right now? You should be.).
The best concert I’ve ever seen was The Hold Steady in Portland, back in 2006. My Morning Jacket at the Greek is a close and easy number two. They were workman-like to say the least (James only said about ten words to the audience all night, basically thanking everyone for coming out to “participate with all your brothers and sisters” – I’m guessing Mr. James smoked a little something before the show, but he’s a mellow enough dude), and, yeah, they got a bit jammy throughout the night but my pal Tim and I came to a realization watching Jim James and fellow-guitarist Carl Broemel exchange guitary freakouts last night: the thing that separates My Morning Jacket from jam bands is that it’s interesting when My Morning Jacket takes off on an instrumental rant. A lot of jam bands play fifteen minute versions of their songs and there’s no reason – they’re meandering, feeling for the next dull note in a long line of dull notes. With My Morning Jacket, their songs grow in length because they simply cannot stop rocking out. The outro to “Off the Record,” is kinda tedious on Z. In concert, it’s filled with squalling guitars and, last night, Jim James fleshed it out with an extremely nasty solo at the end. Unlike most jam bands, My Morning Jacket is not determined to play long, stoned versions of their songs – they’re determined to rock out as fully as possible on each song. While that added length to songs like “Off the Record” and “One Big Holiday,” it actually shortened “I Will Sing You Songs” and “Phone Went West.” James and company exhibit an impeccable instinct for exactly how much rock a song needs and a flawless execution in providing it.
At every concert I attend, there are songs that I pretty much need to hear in order to go home happy. With My Morning Jacket, they were, in no particular order: “Evil Urges,” “Off the Record,” “The Way that He Sings,” “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream” (both parts!), “Dancefloors,” and “Mahgeetah.” Of those, MMJ only denied me “Dancefloors,” but they’re forgiven because they threw in “Phone Went West,” an older, reggae-tinged chestnut that I totally didn’t expect them to play. The best part about “Phone Went West,” is the free contact-high I got from the people next to me sparking up a joint; on top of the few Newcastle Browns I’d imbibed and coupled with the song itself, I was teetering on the edge of some sort of awesome spiritual vision. Or something.
My Morning Jacket played for two solid hours before departing (closing the show with the awesome 1-2 punch of “Smoking from Shooting” and “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2”). Then they returned for a 45 minute encore that ended with a completely raucous version of “One Big Holiday.” I’ve been a huge fan of this band since I first heard them back in ’05, but last night’s show solidified them as among my five favorite current artists (before you even ask, here they are in – as always – no particular order: The Hold Steady, My Morning Jacket, The National, Tom Waits, and The Flaming Lips. List subject to change every five minutes) and easily one of the best rock bands in America right now. If this band is coming to your town, go fucking see them.