Alternately touted as the best live band in America and America’s folky answer to Radiohead, My Morning Jacket had a lot of hype to live up to during their concert at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City. The Louisville, Kentucky band was touring to support their recently released fifth album Evil Urges. Befitting their album title, the band entered the stage to hellish lighting and clouds of smoke. Frontman Jim James swaggered out wearing a cape as the band immediately kicked into opener and title track “Evil Urges.”
My Morning Jacket’s records are immersive, but nothing prepared me for the impact of their live show. The band’s double guitar attack accompanied with Jim James’ otherworldly vocals, Two-tone Tommy’s incredible bass playing, and Patrick Hallahan’s Bonham-esque drumming plummeted the audience into the depths of a rock n’ roll inferno, that has become iconized through greats such as Zeppelin, AC/DC, and KISS. All the new material off of Evil Urges sounded great live, although an over reliance on the new record lessened the energy of the first half of the show. As consolation, the backend of the show was heavy with It Still Moves and Z era pieces. A little after the halfway mark, MMJ broke out “Mahgeetah,” which is when the band really started to not only shine, but glow. Previous to this, however, the band still held down a solid show with heavenly cuts like “Gideon” and “The Way That He Sings”.
One of the more unexpected moments of the Evening with My Morning Jacket came when Jim James disappeared off stage during “Steam Engine” only to materialize on a balcony a minute later. James proceeded to solo twenty feet above the crowd with all eyes on him. Their regular set ended with the band playing “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2”, the funky and soulful omnichord driven closer off of Evil Urges. The band dashed off stage as James cued up “Good Intentions”, a brief snippet of noise and voices.
My Morning Jacket’s encore was incredible. Beginning with “Wordless Chorus”, which had everyone in the audience attempting to imitate James’ angelic wails, followed by “Highly Suspicious”, cementing in my mind the ingenuity and overall balls to the wall rock of the controversial song, the encore proved to be the highlight of the set. Jim James’ manifesto about “peanut butter pudding surprises” was trailed by “Anytime”, a blazing rocker off of Z, the energy in the theater spiking considerably. However, My Morning Jacket had saved their ace in the hole for last. When the opening shriek of guitar from “Run Thru” sounded in the theater, the place went nuts. One of the coolest spectacles I have ever seen at a concert is the drum breakdown about halfway into “Run Thru”, the drummer illuminated in a strobe light, raising his sticks into the air, mouth wide open looking like a kraken arisen from the depths of a roiling sea. I figured that “Run Thru” was their last song, thinking nothing could top this. When the last piercing notes of “Run Thru” seamlessly segued into the high hat opening of “One Big Holiday” I felt the energy from the band course through the crowd. When Jim James opened his mouth to sing, hundreds of others opened as well roaring, “Wakin’ up, feelin’ good and limber!” The guitar freakouts, slamming of drumsticks, and thunderous bass left the whole audience with one fact: that every MMJ show is One Big Holiday.
Moustache Salad gives Jim James and the crew a Fu Manchu with sideburns (4.5 out of 5).
My Morning Jacket - One Big Holiday ft. Kirk Hammett (Live at Bonnaroo
The setlist can be found here