Sunday, October 5, 2008

My Morning Jacket--McCaw Hall, Seattle, Washington

Rewind my life a few hours before the show and picture this: I had a dinner of macaroni and cheese after a typical Sunday spent doing my laundry and going to Target. And like most I was dreading the workweek that lay ahead. Something routine and a little sad comes to mind when I think of a day like this. Now take this drab Sunday and insert My Morning Jacket.

I have often heard that My Morning Jacket live is an incredible experience. That combined with my obsession with Tennessee Fire, At Dawn, and It Still Moves was enough to send me to McCaw Hall in giddy, Santa’s coming, peeing-in-my-pants anticipation.

Watching My Morning Jacket was witnessing skilled craftsmen. With each song they would lay a solid foundation, build up, tweak things here and there until it was smooth and seamless, making you ready to settle in for the rest of your life, and then they would tear it down. Jim James twirled and hopped around the stage with such ease. His ethereal voice tethered to a possessed electric guitar. He could do no wrong with this reverent audience. Just before they struck the last chord of “Evelyn Is Not Real,” the entire band stopped playing and stood freakishly still for two minutes, leaving every audience member hanging on, either bewildered or screaming. The eerie turn soul-shredding “Dondante” and Kravitz-like “Highly Suspicious” are two tracks that absolutely came to life on stage. My Morning Jacket somehow melds the modern and the classic. McCaw Hall may have not been the best place for them, however. I expected a great sound from a classical music hall, but perhaps sound engineers didn’t figure in “loud modern rock band” into their design. James’ voice did not project with the crisp clarity I had hoped. My only criticism of the band is that they did not jam enough. The dueling guitars at the end of “Lay Low”, although killer, was only modest in length and sounded just like the record. Why not milk it out a little more, boys?

There is something endearingly campy about My Morning Jacket. They don’t stray far from the stereotypical rock show, with dramatic lighting, fog machines and an animal-like drummer. That may sound like a bad thing, but it’s a time-tested, proven formula. It was the simple act of going to a show that has for me launched My Morning Jacket into another artistic stratosphere. I genuinely feel a little sorry for any bands that I see from now on.

I’m not doing them any justice. You have to be there. You have to buy a ticket and go to the show. There’s no short cut. You can’t load it up on YouTube and know how I felt being there. Every moment that passes now is a second farther from the show and it’s unsettling knowing that the memory is going to become less and less vivid. It’s childish, I know, but I don’t want to let that feeling go. Perhaps as the memory wanes, the myth will grow. Each one of us has that concert we hold as being somehow epiphanic. I’m not necessarily suggesting that My Morning Jacket will be that band for you. So this is more an ode to the power of the old rock’n’roll show and how indelible its mark can be.

--Audrey Wen


Matt said...

Great Review. And you are dead-on about "Highly Suspicious". While people tend to have a fuck/hate relationship with this song; I would only those naysayers to hold off on vag-gashing and until after they hear it live.

thegetupkid said...

Yeah, good review. I tried to write a little bit about my experience on my blog as well, but like you, couldn't do the band justice. My only complaint wasn't the sound, but the people at the show. Everyone stayed to their seats it seemed and barely moved. Finally people started moving up, and somehow I found myself directly in front of Jim James. That was an experience I will never forget!!!

audrey said...

I've noticed Seattle crowds at shows to be kind but cool. There's a lot of sitting down at shows. The show-going culture is much different than in Chicago. Less fanatical.

The Dong Machine said...

I've heard "Highly Suspicious" live, and I still think it's one of the worst songs...ever.

Alex said...

Ala, Seinfeld...Jimmy's new in town...Jimmy's got hops...Jimmy's down!

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