My Morning Jacket
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My Morning Jacket are a band at the crossroads of their career. Recent full-length release Evil Urges (review), the first to be truly affected by the line-up overhaul of several years ago, was a major departure from the rustic, meandering epics of old, more awash with white funk and good old rock and roll than acoustic Americana, and although it wasn't close to a defining statement it did have an odd air of finality to it. So two years after their last UK tour there is more than a tinge of excitement (and a few ripples of apprehension) fluttering around the Rescue Rooms as Jim James, and what is essentially his back-up band, takes to the stage.
What is apparent immediately is that the material on their latest release, particularly the title track and the slow-burning couplet of 'Thank You Too' and 'Sec Walkin', have been given a poor representation on record; though they still sound pale in comparison to crowd-pleasing favourites 'One Big Holiday and 'Gideon', they burn brightly in the live environment, given a new life by the commitment of Jim's vocal delivery and showmanship. Even the sub-Stadium Arcadium flaccid cock-rock of 'Highly Suspicious' is almost flung from the realm of embarrassment. But not quite.
Yet the five-piece are at their most comfortable, and strongest, during the five-minute plus country-rockers that cemented MMJ’s reputation as one of the planet's unmissable live acts. The slow majesty of 'Mahgeetah' and the aforementioned 'One Big Holiday' are highlights, but 'The Way That He Sings' is where they hit their highpoint; vocals and acoustic guitars wrapped in reverb, little pieces of heaven bursting like fireworks inside each note.
The amount of people in the audience wearing Neil Young shirts (at least one) gives some indication as to the roots of the band, but the Kentucky-based quintet really are in a class of their own, and even on the back of line-up changes and an ill-fated 'progression' in their sound they remain a truly essential live act.
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