My Morning Jacket @ Orpheum -- 06/29/11

I have a list of bands that I have not seen live, but need to. And had you asked me before yesterday, My Morning Jacket would have been in the top three. Having been a fan of the band since 2005's Z, I was growing increasingly sad that they had not come through town. Sure, Jim James had been here with Monsters of Folk and had done a few MMJ songs, and they had been at a couple nearby festivals, but a show of their own in Vancouver seemed elusive. But as excited as I was to finally see them, and with all the stories I had heard about their live show being beyond incredible, was I setting the bar too high? I went in to the show with equal parts excitement and nervousness, on the chance I had overhyped myself.

First up, though, was Everest, a straight up rock band with definite 70s and 80s influences. Their sound was catchy and the songs upbeat and energetic, but they were without much variety. Of the handful of songs they played, only one really stood out, "Let Go" off their latest album On Approach where the lead singer got behind a second drum kit.
The whole band was pretty stoic, too -- the bass player, especially, who hardly moved -- with one exception; one of the two guitarists had more than enough energy for the rest of the band, jumping around.
They were a good choice in opener, playing Perfectly Acceptable (if a little forgettable) music.

And then at 8:30 sharp, the lights dimmed and the smoke rolled out as My Morning Jacket took the stage. In his long coat and scarf, Jim James took command from the very first minute. Just his presence alone commanded the attention of every last person in the Orpheum, as he strode across the stage throughout the set, occasionally running from one end to the other, jumping around, and even throwing in a few power slides when appropriate. Even when he was hunched over the microphone, draped in a cloak, you almost couldn't tear your eyes away.
Almost, because the rest of the band was in fine form.. Patrick Hallahan on drums, Bo Koster on keyboards and especially Two-Tone Tommy on bass, but especially Carl Broemel on guitar, pedal steel, and saxophone were all on top of their game. They were in front of five large screens that adapted to the songs, from random colours to album art to flying scenery, the screens (and lighting) added to the mood of the set without being too distracting.

Started off with "Victory Dance", the first track form the new album Circuital, the song set the stage for the rest of the night. Building with swirling guitars and flashing lights, it was the perfect opener, and from there they wove through the band's catalogue. With songs off all but one of their six albums, they showed off the vast range of their oeuvre, from the heavy rocking "Holdin On To Black Metal" to the poppy "Off The Record" to the soft and beautiful "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)" and everything in between.
The highlight of the set for me was definitely "Dondante", one of my favourite songs of all time. An incredible experience, it starting soft and calm before exploding into writhing cacophony of guitars and keys and the sound of minds being blown, before the ten minute epic came to a close with a perfect sax solo from Broemel.
Any other band would have called it a night there, but not MMJ. They saw that there were still a couple faces left un-melted and blew through a few more, including the psychedelic "Touch Me I'm Going To Scream pt. 2", and then coming to a close with the straight up rocking "Mahgeetah".

But a mere two hours wasn't enough for the band, as they came back out for an encore of a few more older ones, including another one of my favourite MMJ tunes, "Anytime" and ending the set with "One Big Holiday", a song that has one of the best opening riffs in music.

After nearly two and a half hours, any fears I had of them not living up to the hype were completely demolished. My Morning Jacket is a breathtaking live band, and it was not only one of, if not the best show I have seen all year, but definitely goes up there as one of the best shows I've seen.

Victory Dance, Circuital, Outta My System, Off the Record, Gideon, First Light, You Wanna Freak Out, Wonderful (The Way I Feel), Golden, The Way That He Sings, I'm Amazed, What A Wonderful Man, Holdin' On to Black Metal, Slow Slow Tune, Dondante, Smokin' From Shootin', Touch Me I'm Going To Scream pt. 2, Mahgeetah.
(encore) Wordless Chorus, The Day Is Coming, Anytime, One Big Holiday.