Jim James of The Morning Jacket at The Fonda Theatre in L.A.: Concert Review

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Spiritual ruminations meet perfected jam sessions during the My Morning Jacket frontman’s two-hour set, May 11.

Jim James @ The Fonda Theater – Concert Review

The My Morning Jacket frontman goes track-by-track through his solo effort before switching gears to an encore that included a caped cameo by Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst.

Jim James‘ hair is gloriously alive. During solos where the My Morning Jacket frontman hunches over his guitar, the enormous mane overshadows everything else, giving the impression that strands of hair are furiously strumming the instrument.

The opening of James’ set Saturday at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles, however, began in a more composed manner. The multi-instrumentalist and singer, attired in a suit and tie, led the evening with songs exclusively from his ambitiously titled solo album, Regions of Light and Sound of God, released Feb. 5.

Beginning with “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U),” the bass-grooving album opener, James went track-by-track through Regions. The dense solo album’s spiritual inclinations were previously stated by the singer to be inspired by the “hazy dream” of a robot and 1929 graphic novel God’s Man. And the reflective interludes, chants and saxaphone solos  initially were a stark contrast to the Southern alt-rock sensibilities of My Morning Jacket.

“I use my state-of-the-art technology/Now don’t you forget it: It ain’t using me,” he crooned.

“Know Til Now,” the first single released from the album, featured a sound akin to material that producer Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) could’ve conjured for James Mercer‘s Broken Bells project or Beck‘s Modern Guilt. “Dear One,” a standout track on Regions, was punctuated by two precisely executed drum solos that drew cheers from the standing crowd at the packed venue.

Like the album, the songs transitioned seamlessly into one another, and James didn’t see the need to break up mood by adding any topical comments. His first words were a cryptic introduction to the fourth song, the sparse “A New Life.”

At times, the expanded live versions of the Region tracks took stabs at grand gestures. The bleak solos of Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” and the manic tone of Radiohead’s “The National Anthem” appeared to be influencers.

Jim James @ The Fonda Theater

Jim James @ The Fonda Theater

Throughout the set, James ambled about the stage in a playful mood. He snatched what looked like a bronze ornamental bear prop and playfully twirled around before returning it to its proper place. And, periodically, he would freeze in position, stare out at the audience and smile as if there were some joke that the crowd was missing.

At the conclusion of album closer “God’s Love to Deliver,” James only briefly stepped away from the stage before starting the encore with acoustic tracks. His rendition of the latter-day My Morning Jacket song “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)” was helped by stripping the string accompaniment that made the track sound rom-com syrupy on the album.

From there, the evening finally switched gears to head-nodding rock jams when James broke out material from his supergroup side project, Monsters of Folk.

During “Dear God,” the most notable track from the self-titled album, the hirsute frontman was joined by fellow Monster of Folk, Conor Oberst, for a cameo verse. The Bright Eyes singer appeared on stage wrapped in black cape and added his voice to a few lines before unfurling the cape with arms outstretched for the remainder of the track. At the end of the song, he covered his head and vanished offstage.

The set ended with three more Monsters of Folk tracks — “His Masters Voice,” “The Right Place” and “Losin Yo Head” — before ending with a rousing song from his contribution to New Multitudes, a Woody Guthrie tribute album, called “Changing World.”

Then, James inexplicably snatched the ornamental bear once again and appeared as if he were going to toss it into the audience. He seemed to offer it a prayer before setting it aside and leaving the stage for good.

Set List: 

State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U)
Know Til Now
Dear One
A New Life
Exploding
Of the Mother Again
Actress
All Is Forgiven
God’s Love to Deliver

Encore:

Wonderful (The Way I Feel)
Dear God (with Conor Oberst)
His Master’s Voice
The Right Place
Losin Yo Head
Changing World

 

My Morning Jacket Played The Paramount Theatre – Live Show Review

Jim James of My Morning Jacket @ On The Beach ’13 (Photo: C. Rotolo)

Jim James of My Morning Jacket @ On The Beach ’13 (Photo: C. Rotolo)

On The Beach: A Sandy Relief Concert

The circumstances encompassing Asbury Park’s Paramount Theatre, and the Jersey Shore as whole, on Wednesday evening were less than favorable.

200 miles to the south, House Speaker John Boehner placed a much needed $60 billion Hurricane Sandy relief package to the back burner, while 10 miles north on Ocean Avenue Sea Bright homes once again sat soggy from flooding after a recent holiday storm, as fences on Asbury’s storied boardwalk kept from view the shredded planks that not so long ago would have welcomed the hustle on bustle of foot traffic on a magical evening such as this.

However, New Jersey and it’s residents carry with them a resolve without equal. In the face of injustice, tragedy, shock and awe, we take action: like Governor Chris Christie who unknotted his GOP ties when his public was wronged.

We take action: like the good people at Rebuild Recover, Coastal Habitat For Humanity, The Food Bank Of Monmouth & Ocean Counties, Food For Thought by the Sea, and Waves For Water, who have worked tirelessly to help restore hope, lives, and our coastal communities. These groups and those who fly under their gracious flags possess a true calling, and it’s inspiring to say the absolute least.

We take action: like Danny Clinch, Tim Donnelly, and Tony Pallagrosi, the founders of On The Beach: A Sandy Relief Benefit, who stared down devastation in their hometowns and then looked toward one another with a single question on their tongues…”If not us, then who?”

California resident, and Waves For Water founder, Jon Rose may have put it best referring to the efforts along the Jersey Shore as a “shining example” of a community standing up in the face of disaster to construct a path toward recovery, a road to restoration, and traveling down it into the heart of Asbury’s East Side were the likes of My Morning Jacket, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Steve Earl, Joseph Arthur, Tangiers Blues Band, and lauded members of the Garden State music scene’s new guard in the Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon, River City Extension, and Nicole Atkins.

Tangiers Blues Band, who feature Clinch on harmonica and backing vocals, opened the evening offering a modest assemblage swampy Rock renditions of such classic cuts as The Beastie Boys “Fight For Your Right To Party” and a sloppily seductive rendition of Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up.” Toms River’s own River City Extension and Neptune’s Nicole Atkins followed, adjusting their usually lengthy live performances of grit-riddled Americana and vintage Blues-Pop balladry to time-shortened four-song sets featuring eruptive selections from the former’s sophomore LP, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger (2012), including the surging “Point Of Surrender” and the latter’s thunderous “Neptune City.”

The Akron-based Ben Harper collaborator, Joseph Arthur, and his wealth of flame-licked and effects-drenched Rock N’ Roll prefaced the Red Bank-bred and New Brunswick basement-honed Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon, who dipped into the well of his inked-up, flannel cloaked, Punk persona and removed soulful, acoustic guitar-led renditions of “Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts,” “Great Expectations,” and the soon-to-be classic Handwritten composition “National Anthem.”

Fallon performed a short, intimate, solo acoustic set which, as SIMGE can attest to after witnessing the artist’s solo offering this past year at the recently defunct Press Room night club, is an impressive showcase of gritty artistic beauty.

Eddie Vedder recently joined Fallon and company onstage at Deluna Festival this past September for a rendition of the classic Pearl Jam cut “State Of Love & Trust,” a possible collaboration, pending Vedder’s availability, isn’t out of the question.

Activist, actor, and Folk auteur Steve Earle plucked away on his acoustic six string an ode to the grounds and the man who put Asbury Park on the musical map with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper” before offering a series of songs from a forthcoming release that will, according to Earle, “piss a lot of people off.” The Nashville artist gave way to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band who acted as a key cog in this musical fundraising machine, providing a brass-coated demonstration in Dixieland Jazz while backing Earle on his post-Hurricane Katrina anthem, “This City,” in which the songsmith uttered the all too appropriate poetics “this city won’t wash away/this city won’t ever drown,” as well as allowing My Morning Jacket’s caped crooner, Jim James, the opportunity too jam upon “Louisiana Fairytale” and “St. James Infirmary.”

And the Preservation Hall collective, six members of which lost their homes in Katrina, wasn’t finished as My Morning Jacket would call upon the group, after distributing such laser-caked, psychedelia-laced Southern-Rock epics as “Victory Dance,” “I’m Amazed,” and “First Light,” to finish out its nearly two-hour performance with “Highly Suspicious,” jams on Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” and Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell,” and the concluding, theatre-quaking, “One Big Holiday.

Junot Diaz once wrote “The Boardwalk is where all of New Jersey came together. Where New Jersey, for better or worse, met itself.” On The Beach allowed us to congregate once again, in the face of tremendous devastation, hardships, and even tougher times ahead. But like Chris Christie, like the non-profit organizations and volunteers giving of themselves in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, and like Clinch, Donnelly, and Pallagrosi, we’ll continue to act, to bolster, rebuild, and restore our beloved Jersey Shore.

NOTE: As reported last week, Eddie Vedder signed on as an underwriter of the On The Beach: A Sandy Relief Concert which took place on January 2nd in Asbury Park’s Paramount Theatre with My Morning Jacket, The Gaslight Anthem, Steve Earle, Tangiers Blues Band, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, River City Extension, Nicole Atkins, and more…maybe next year Ten Club members received a live recording from this monumental event.

My Morning Jacket & Creativity

August 5, 2012

Tonight, looking for a particular song in Youtube I bumped into My Morning Jacket’s Bermuda Highway. I was so impressed by the singer’s voice that I watched the video and listened to the track several times. What an amazing voice! It was Jim James’ remarkably powerful, yet intimately welcoming voice. My Morning Jacket has been a rising star in music since the band’s inception in 1998. They are a four-piece band from Louisville, KY, built solidly around the vocal and songwriting talent of group leader Jim James. “Their sound is lonesome, haunting, almost classic country at times, and that voice — James’ voice shares the same section of that old country highway with the familiar sounds of Neil Young, yet sounds right at home here in the world of independent American pop music, alongside contemporary singers like the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne and Galaxie 500’s Dean Wareham. Like Galaxie 500, My Morning Jacket weaves songs and sounds together perfectly — underneath the big open sky filled with bright stars of course — never allowing the heavy reverb (and the reverb is definitely heavy) to subtract anything from the visual lyrics, or from the simple beauty of the songs themselves.”

My Morning Jacket’s musical talents and the creativity they bring into our lives are in sharp contrast with the current state of the record industry. From a business perspective it’s both painful and exciting. Painful because it’s only half of what it used to be ten years ago. Exciting because whoever makes it out of this into whatever is next will be on top. From a creative perspective, it’s sad. Pop radio has been reduced to the equivalent of processed fast food. It’s all the same, just different faces on the package. There’s great music being made, but it’s not on the radio, and much of it is not selling the types of records it used to. In many ways it has to do with record companies not making as much money as they used to. Having money gave them the freedom to sign and develop so many more acts. Record companies could be “chefs” back them. Taking the time to prepare and cook dishes that stretched consumers palettes. Now because that risk is so great, they just serve fast food to make a profit and have joined in with the fashion industry to sell it dressed in fancy rags. Obviously, it is unhealthy artistically for the consumer. That mentality also bleeds down to creatives. They are striving creatively, but the most successful acts they’re trying to emulate are just fructose corn syrup. That’s why we freak the hell out when someone like Ryan Adams, Jack White, Adele or Academy Award-winning singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham come along. They are so rare these days. I watched talented people release records they can’t even get their mother to buy. Then I see much less talented people sell millions. But being successful doesn’t mean being the most talented. We are going to be talking about and discussing these troubling issues and the alternatives we may have.

Quote: Caleb Morairty

My Morning Jacket – Bermuda Highway

My Morning Jacket – Outta My System

Music video by My Morning Jacket performing Outta My System. (C) 2012 ATO Records, LLC. All Rights Reserved.