Music is a personal thing, so we asked our music man on-the-go Ian Weed to share some of his recent concert experiences, Here’s what he reports, as well as sharing some visuals…
For the New Year’s weekend, my wife and I hopped in the car and drove from Austin to Colorado to see three nights of My Morning Jacket. This band is known to do multi-shows from time to time and the reviews afterwards are always crazy positive. People tend to over use the word epic, yet I think it’s a suitable adjective to describe the shows. And, I’ve seen a few. Over the span of the run, they do not repeat any of their songs. With seven studio albums, a handful of EPs, and a seemingly endless catalog of past performed covers, there is really no telling what you’ll get at these shows and to have the last night of the run be New Year’s Eve… I thought it would be next level and it was.
They played at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield outside of Denver. It was an odd choice, but once inside, there was a buzz in the room and seeing the various lanterns and over 20 mirror balls hanging from the ceiling, we were off to a good start. The first three songs were from 2001’s At Dawn. This was a good sign to the die-hard fans who complain about past shows not having enough of their earlier material. For the majority of their set, it stayed early in their catalog. They played Heartbreakin Man and Evelyn is Not Real from their debut album The Tennessee Fire. A highlight for me was Hopefully that lead singer Jim James performed as a solo acoustic with a row of spotlights on him that made it seem that he had a Mohawk of light beams coming out of him.
While James is the front man, the band is super tight and songs are stretched out and flow into each other. One of my favorite moments was when they played War Begun then I Will Sing You Songs followed by O is the O That Is Real and What a Wonderful Man. It was a twenty-minute rollercoaster. One moment you had quiet finger picking guitars and then later quickly ripping harmonizing guitar solos to foot stomping rock n roll. While I am hesitant to label them as a jam band, their set closer, Dondante, can be as short as eight minutes and I think that night it was close twenty minutes. Epic.
Night one ended with a lot of momentum and night two picked it right back up. We got live favorites like The Way That He Sings, The Dark, and a version of Steam Engine complete with confetti cannons. We also had an introduction of a horn section that added an extra flare to songs like First Light and the ever insane Run Thru.
The openers for each night were amazing, too. Night one we had The Revolution (yes, that Revolution) performing all of the Prince hits that they had a hand in…and then some. It was definitely a great way to start the run. It’s a beautiful thing that they to carry on the spirit of the Purple One. Night two’s opener was the brilliant Tune-Yards. Merrill Garbus was flexing the sampler and layering her voice and other noises to go on top of Nate Brenner’s hypnotic bass lines. I can’t wait to hear their new album I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life which will be out by the time you are reading this. Night three’s opener was Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. KDTU brought the saxophone funk to get the crowd riled up for MMJ and New Year’s Eve.
Night three got down to business with up tempo hitters like Victory Dance, Evil Urges, and Compound Fracture. One of the highlights of the weekend was seeing them play their Omnichord dance jam Touch Me I’m Going to Scream, Pt. 2 into their weird psych rock jam Cobra into Miss You by The Rolling Stones. If you weren’t moving by the end of that string of songs, you didn’t have a pulse.
One thing that Jim James mentioned the first two nights is that 2017 was messed up and we are going to leave it on a high note and that 2018 is going to be a brighter year. After a brief intermission, the band took the stage to countdown to the new year and started their first set of 2018 with songs of positivity.
They started with Wordless Chorus and the line in the song: “We are the innovators, They are the imitators” was practically screamed back at the band. It was an arm hair-raising thing to witness. From there we had guitar rockers like Dancefloors and Lay Low, and a string of covers that fit Jim James’ narrative of positivity and love: Everyday People (Sly & The Family Stone), What the World Needs Now is Love (Burt Bacharach), All You Need is Love (The Beatles), Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) (Sly & The Family Stone) and one surely out of left field, Rhythm Nation by Janet Jackson.
Past covers of nights one and two were: Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You (Bob Dylan), Rebel Rebel (David Bowie), America (Simon & Garfunkel), Purple Rain (Prince), Mercy Mercy Me (Marvin Gaye) and Like a Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan).
The night ended with, as expected, One Big Holiday. It’s one of MMJ’s biggest anthems and they almost always end their sets with it and I will never get tired of hearing it. I’m not alone on this as people were losing their minds around me. I am sure they are, like me, ready to make this year better than the last and beginning the year at a My Morning Jacket show, we’re already off to a great start.
Here’s more of a look at My Morning Jacket’s recent performances on YouTube…