Friday, January 2, 2009
My Morning Jacket @ Madison Square Garden: 12/31/08 - 1/1/09
The anticipation grew as we sat in our seats, taking bets on what song My Morning Jacket was going to open with. As the jazz music that welcomed the crowd entering The Garden grew louder, the house lights dimmed and a faint spotlight relieved the band sitting at a table on an elevated part of the stage in the back corner of the stage simultaneously. This table would later house the multiple guests that the band would use throughout the show along with friends and family.
As the band took the stage the crowd erupted, but was quickly silenced by the unfamiliar chord progression that the band presented them. It was Curtis Mayfield's own 'Move On Up'. Although unorthodox to open a show with a cover, the band, along with the terrific four-piece horn section rocked it, and rocked it hard. As the night progressed towards the new year, the show just kept on getting better and better, including appearances by special guests Nicole Atkins and Will Johnson, and climaxing with their best live song (in my opinion), Run Thru, complete with choreography by Patrick Hallahan, during Bo Koster's big synth part. Jacket broke away for intermission about 20 minutes before the new year and put up the countdown clock up on the big screens. As the clock reached zero and the band broke into Kool & The Gang's 'Celebration' everybody realized that it was only 11:58. Our group of friends were confused, but overlooked it and had our own mini-celebration as the clock really struck 12:00.
The show took a turn for the worse in 2009 as the bands last nine songs included five covers and only four My Morning Jacket originals. Now I understand that it was a special show and all, but I think that the covers would have been justified if the band hadn't skipped over some great songs such as, 'It Beats 4 U', 'Steam Engine', and 'Touch Me I'm Going To Scream Part 1'. Another downside to the show, for me, was lead singer Jim James abusing his phenomenal voice, after hitting those golden notes, James may have damaged my eardrums by pushing them out to the point where it no longer sounded good. Before you hate me for this I want you to know that I think Jim James has one of the best male singing voices, along with Thom Yorke of Radiohead and Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes, but I feel that the combination of his adrenaline rush and a sub-par sound engineer made his voice come across a little more harsh than it really is.
All around this was stunning show with a few bumps in the road, but even with these bumps, Jim James will always be my favorite caped superhero.
I thought the performance was fantastic, my only complaint being the abundance of the aforementioned covers. However, it seemed like most of the crowd enjoyed them, so it was probably just the hardcore fans such as ourselves that were a little upset. Other than that, all their greats were executed to perfection, down to the sax at the end of "Dondante." I will say I'm glad to see the Evil Urges Tour has finally come to end, so next time we see them hopefully I won't have to sit through "Thank You Too" and "I'm Amazed."
Now that we all have more experience seeing them live, I think it's safe to say that they're one of the best live bands you can see. For the most part, they play exactly what regular concert folk and hardcore fans alike will enjoy. So next time they play near you, make an effort to try and see them. You won't be disappointed.
Having already seen MMJ live in Boston this October, during the same tour, I was curious to see how the show would be different. Right from the get-go, I realized this show was certainly going to be different. I think everyone has their own opinions on the covers, and while there are definitely a few originals I was sad to see go by the wayside, I think we all appreciate the band's effort to try and put on an entertaining New Year's show. My main problem with the covers they did is that they don't particularly play to the band's strengths, and didn't particularly sound great. They were dominated by guitar for the most part, and the horn parts and singing were occasionally drowned out.
On the other hand, this live show is still better than 99% of live shows you're going to see out there today. MMJ is a band that always goes the extra mile for its fans, and that strategy has paid off big time in terms of acquiring fans, as they have recently become very popular. And as for what Chandler said about "I'm Amazed," I fear we may see that song for many tours to come.
Move On Up (Curtis Mayfield)
Off The Record
The Way That He Sings
Thank You Too
Golden w/Will Johnson
You're All I Need (Marvin Gaye) w/Nicole Atkins
Express Yourself (Charles Wright)*
Phone Went West
Look At You
Smoking from Shootin'
Touch Me Part 2
I'm A Wanderer (Dion)*
Celebration (Kool & The Gang)*
Get Down On It (Kool & The Gang)*
Islands in the Stream w/Nicole Atkins (Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers)
Bring It on Home to Me (Sam Cooke) *
Cold Sweat (James Brown)*
One Big Holiday