Published in The Student Life on 9.26.2008
Whether you have been a fan ever since the ’99 album The Tennessee Fire, listening over and over to songs like “The Bear” and “Evelyn Is Not Real,” or you have just discovered the still-warm release of Evil Urges, you simply have to see My Morning Jacket in concert. Part of the 2008 Evil Urges Tour, the 09/21 show at the LA Greek Theater proved that they are, indeed, fantastic live.
The concert started as any other. “Evil Urges” was a good warm-up opener for the substantial crowd filling the seats of the small but well-organized venue, immediately followed by “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Part I,” another song from the new album. The Evil Urges string was often interrupted by older pleasures like “Off The Record,” “What A Wonderful Man,” and “Mahgeetah” from the most recent Z (2005) and It Still Moves (2003).
After a high start things calmed down a bit with slower pieces like the new “Thank You Too” and “Sec Walkin’ ” that lead to the 9’ slow-tempo peak, the beautiful “I Will Sing You Songs.” And then, lulled in a wonderful self-reflection and secretly expecting a bang, the audience was not hit but gently touched by “Dondante,” another long track off Z. It is pretty remarkable on the album, but if you think you have already heard it in its utmost beauty and tear-evoking tenderness, you are probably wrong: on Sunday night “Dondante” was both gentle and demanding, a prolonged jam closed by a powerful saxophone solo in near darkness that took the audience to a cathartic climax.
Before anyone could even begin to recover from this intense experience, the first words of “Librarian” had already sounded from the dimly lit stage. It was followed by the equally brilliant “Smokin’ From Shootin’ ” and, keeping the original album order, “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Part II”. The audience did scream. Soon they were hysterically clapping and howling, too, because after playing “Good Intentions,” a six-second piece consisting of a lot of noise and the words, “Okay, cool,” the band members sprinted off stage, guitars and all.
It took a lot of noise and explicit appreciation to bring My Morning Jacket back on stage, but the encore was surely worth the effort. It was not only unusually long, but also more spectacular than any other part of the show. After an awkward joke along the lines of, “People come to LA to see the Hollywood sign, the Statue of Liberty, but I enjoy the little things,” Jim James sang “Golden” and “Wordless Chorus.” The beginning of the glorious end was marked by “Highly Suspicious,” which drove the audience crazy on various levels, including visually: the lights that had already changed from green to red to blue many times, dancing in rhythm with the music or becoming mere white dots in the darkness of the stage, engaged in a complicated light-show in yellow and purple, which, combined with James’ falsetto, made it clear why concerts are so much cooler than CDs. “Highly Suspicious” was grand enough to have been the last, but it was followed by “Run Thru” and “One Big Holiday” – both epic and blinding for the eyes and the mind. Very few were sitting during these two titans among songs, and when the last sound faded there was a vast satisfied emptiness in the LA Greek Theater.
If criticism is a must, one could remark that extremely good old stuff was completely omitted from the show, which aimed, above all, to promote the new Evil Urges. Some said more jamming could be desired in well-known pieces like “One Big Holiday;” then again, how can you make that song better? The general response, however, was unanimous: every aspect of the concert from the set list to the often ridiculously theatrical stage presence of the long-haired cape-flapping James was good beyond words. Yet, so much could be said about it.