Words by: Adam Kaye | Images by: Scott Newton
My Morning Jacket :: 08.25.08 :: KLRU Studios :: Austin, TX
In 2006, Louisville, Kentucky's My Morning Jacket joined an elite group of musicians when they taped their first appearance on the long-running public television program, Austin City Limits. A little over a week ago, they joined an even more elite group who have appeared on the show more than once.
The fact that they were invited back so quickly is a reflection of their ridiculously rapid growth. As the producer of the show explained while introducing the band, after hearing their most recent release, Evil Urges (read the review here), he was shocked to hear how far the band had progressed since their last appearance and he just had to have them back as soon as possible.
Attending a taping of Austin City Limits is always a great experience, which is a reflection of the hospitality extended by the staff and volunteers that produce the show. They go to great lengths to make the artists comfortable, and it shows in the performances, but it's not easy to be a member of the audience. Most of those in attendance are there because they have a connection of some sort, though some pay their way in by making a generous donation to the station, and this night was no exception. Average Joes can call the ACL hotline, then listen to a specific radio station for a ticket-giveaway announcement, race to the location of the giveaway, and hope to be there in time to get a pass, which still doesn't guarantee admission.
On this night, after standing in line outside of the building that houses the studio and riding the oversized elevator to the sixth floor of the Communications Building on the University of Texas's campus, attendees stepped into the foyer outside the studio and were instantly transported to some sort of concert fantasyland. The hall was filled with artificial smoke, and there were tables covered with free cups of beer with volunteers encouraging people to take two if they'd like.
My Morning Jacket's performance was great, but it was clear from the start that this was a TV show taping as opposed to a concert like they had played at Stubb's BBQ the night before. At Stubb's, they played for close to three hours, non-stop, focusing on more rocking material and repeatedly opening up songs for extended jams. For ACL, they seemed to choose a setlist with more slow tunes, presumably because they'll make for a more compelling TV show. The playing was still inspired, but the majority of the set didn't seem to have the same energy as the night before.
MMJ's catalog is so diverse, and they did a good job of showcasing this fact even though two-thirds of the set came from the new album. Many recognize this diversity as a product of the advanced technical abilities of the musicians and welcome the opportunity to see a country-sounding ballad sandwiched between a Springsteen-esque rocker and a techno-rave dance tune. On the other hand, some concertgoers might attend a show hoping to hear a particular song that they heard on the radio, or certain tracks from a different era, and they could end up being disappointed by MMJ's willful ranging about.
|MMJ :: 08.25 :: ACL Taping :: Austin, TX|
While lead singer-guitarist Jim James is obviously the heart of the band, drummer Patrick Hallahan is literally and figuratively the center of My Morning Jacket. It's Hallahan's ability to play such a wide range of styles that allows the band to cover dramatically diverse territory from one song to the next, even within a single song. As the band waited to take the stage, he could be seen jumping up and down backstage, primed to unleash for a TV audience far larger than any normal concert performance. The band watched Hallahan, and the crowd couldn't help but watch James, who moved around the stage like a young child in need of his Ritalin.
They opened with six of the first seven tracks off of Evil Urges, including the reggae-tinged title track, the anthemic "I'm Amazed" (with a scorching guitar solo from multi-instrumentalist Carl Broemel) and beautiful three-part harmonies on "Thank You Too!," "Sec Walkin" and "Two Halves." As the set progressed, Broemel played a few songs on the lap steel guitar and saxophone, and James took a couple turns with his acoustic guitar. Keyboardist Bo Coster shined brightest during "Highly Suspicious" and the set-closing "Steam Engine," and bassist "Two Tone Tommy" Blankenship was reliably steady throughout.
While the majority of the set felt considerably slower than the Stubb's show, none of it was uninteresting. It simply felt as if it was geared for the circumstances. The playing was precise and focused, though it must have been difficult restraining themselves because it's obvious they enjoy letting it all hang out, as they displayed for the two-song encore.
"Aluminum Park" began with an early Springsteen feel and patiently built until the band couldn't hold back any longer and unleashed a rippin' guitar solo while James wailed. Fan favorite "One Big Holiday" from 2003's It Still Moves was a perfect, rocking closer – the band surrounding Hallahan, jumping around and falling to their knees. It seemed as if they had agreed that they spent enough time holding back and were going to squeeze as much freaking out as possible into this final tune.
As a result, the audience left satisfied as they filed out of the Communications Building and back into the real world, happy to know that rock & roll is alive - if you know where to look.
08.25.08 - ACL Taping :: KLRU Studios :: Austin, TX
Evil Urges, Touch Me I'm Going to Scream, Pt. 1, I'm Amazed, Thank You Too!, Sec Walkin, Two Halves, War Begun, Librarian, Look at You, Smokin from Shootin, Touch Me I'm Going to Scream, Pt. 2, Nashville to Kentucky, Just One Thing, Wordless Chorus, Highly Suspicious, Cobra, Steam Engine
Encore: Aluminum Park, One Big Holiday
JamBase | City Limit
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