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Monday, June 27, 2011

Friday: My Morning Jacket Leads a Southern Revival at the Fox

Posted By on Mon, Jun 27, 2011 at 8:17 AM

My Morning Jacket at the Fox on Friday
  • My Morning Jacket at the Fox on Friday

My Morning Jacket

Everest

June 14, 2011

@ The Fox Theater, Oakland

Better than: Smoking some kush and listening to "Free Bird" on repeat for three hours. Or was it 30 minutes?

A few things can be easy to forget when considering a My Morning Jacket show. One, that this is a truly Southern band: Watching the parade of hipped-out thirtysomethings delight over cocktails and someone's latest design project before the doors open, you could easily be at an MGMT show.

But then you see a middle-aged man with a healthy gut and a shock of still-blond hair sidle up to the bar and demand in a low drawl, "We're gonna be needin' some bourbon. What kind you got?"

And then, of course, there is the band. For all the varied fashion senses (and ages) of its audience, there is no doubting where this group of exceptionally talented (and quite possibly insane) musicians hails from. As the lights dimmed and the crowd roared on Friday night, an ominous rumble came brewing from the stage. Out marched frontman Jim James in a long coat befitting a New Orleans-based funeral director, with a mane of hair obscuring his face.

Then came the wordless scatting that heralds "Victory Dance," the first track off My Morning Jacket's brand-new release, Circuital. A heart-stopping thrill as a recording, the effect live was immediate -- as the song's slow build steadily intensified, those in the crowd stood wide-eyed, nodding in frantic affirmation. James stalked around the stage, waving his arms and banging his head.

"My god," I thought. "He's a crazy fucking shaman of Southern Rock. He's performing voodoo on us all."

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It doesn't matter how "indie" your fan base may be -- that's the kind of Southern spirit you really can't argue with. As this was simply the first number in a 26-song set that fell just short of three hours, we were in for far more spell-casting as the night wore on.

My Morning Jacket is one of the best live bands today. Although it consistently puts out excellent albums, the raw power of its live performance is mind-blowing. Three hours later, after guest appearances from M. Ward and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, you, as an audience member, find yourself spent. And elated.

This brings me to the second thing that can be easy to forget in the course of a My Morning Jacket show -- the opener. This was not because Everest, a similar kind of '70s rock throwback band, wasn't great. It was. The members played with a raucous joy and energy that showed serious performing chops. But how can that stand up to a three-hour, multifaceted set, with the crazy spell-casting antics of Jim James? On Friday, it couldn't.

Much of My Morning Jacket's set was dedicated to showcasing tracks from Circuital, but the band was met with enthusiastic cheers when opening up old favorites like "Off the Record" from Z and "I'm Amazed" off Evil Urges.

"It's a genuine thrill to be here between the two gold Buddhas," James declared before launching into "Golden." His timing was perfect; I had just been staring at the Buddhas myself and thinking I may have seen one give a slight nod in time with the music. "If he could speak," I thought, "the first thing out of his mouth would be a low, deep, Barry White-style 'Ohhhh, yeahhhhh.'"

Of course, there were some lulls over the course of 26 songs. My Morning Jacket has a number of slow tunes, and performed them well. However, when an intoxicated, sold-out crowd becomes a factor, the lovely simplicity of a number like "Slow Slow Tune" (which included an appearance from M. Ward) became diminished by the distracted chatter of the audience.

But just when James risked losing them in a haze of pot smoke, he turned up the volume, let out a yowl, and began pogoing around the stage like a man possessed.

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This isn't to say that bigger is always better, but it's certainly effective when done by My Morning Jacket. It was difficult on Friday to tell when the show was coming to an end; every other song was performed with the verve of a finale. This was particularly the case with the second encore. My Morning Jacket was joined by members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The crowd was worked into a lather of excitement and enthusiastically danced to "Holdin' On to Black Metal" and the freaky-awesome "Highly Suspicious" (an older couple in front of me began doing the robot).

But as the band tore through "One Big Holiday," it became clear that we had reached the finale of the evening. With a volley of guitar licks and an explosion of strobe lights, the stately Fox took on the spirit of a stadium complete with a pit filled with pumping fists.

Leave it to My Morning Jacket to cause the South to rise again.

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Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: I own several pairs of cowboy boots, and I'm not afraid to use 'em.

Setlist

Victory Dance

Circuital

The Day Is Coming

Off the Record

Anytime

I'm Amazed

Golden

Outta My System

You Wanna Freak Out

First Light

O Is the One The One That Is Real

Wonderful (The Way I Feel) (with M. Ward)

Slow Slow Tune

Steam Engine

Gideon

Wordless Chorus

Phone Went West

Mahgeetah

---

Dondante

Smokin from Shootin

Run Thru (closing section)

Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 2

---

(with Preservation Hall Jazz Band)

Holdin' On to Black Metal

Highly Suspicious

Dancefloors

One Big Holiday

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Lauren Sloss

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