My Morning Jacket | 04.30 | North Carolina

Words by: Nick Todaro | Images by: Lane Flexner

My Morning Jacket :: 04.30.10 :: Koka Booth Amphitheatre :: Cary, NC

MMJ :: 04.30 :: North Carolina
It was four songs into My Morning Jacket's first North Carolina set in three years that Jim James demonstrated how charismatic of a guy he actually is. Drunken concertgoers had been pelting the band with glow sticks following an explosion of them during "Gideon." Relentlessly, a few bumptious audience members decided to make the band members' faces targets for the plastic luminaries. Rather than acting annoyed or frustrated by the behavior, Mr. James took it in stride by picking up an orange one he had managed to dodge and placing it in his mouth. As the band roared into "Off The Record," James continued gnawing on the stick as if he were a dog chewing his favorite bone.

For the group's show at Cary's beautiful Koka Booth Amphitheatre, this incident summed up the theme of the night: try to make a bad situation enjoyable. Neither Jacket or the Preservation Hall Jazz Band contributed to the atypical circumstances surrounding the show, it was completely out of their hands. As a matter of fact, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, who went on just before sundown and had Jim James join them onstage for two songs, had spirits high throughout their signature performance of NOLA classics. Unfortunately, both the sound quality and the crowd atmosphere seemed to have been in the gutter on what could have been a monumental My Morning Jacket show.

A complaint about this particular venue frequently voiced within the Triangle music scene is that the sound is way too low during performances. This is mostly due to the amphitheatre park being surrounded by neighborhoods that like to complain. Being third row at a concert should mean that you're engulfed in a sea of sound, not struggling to hear the lyrics to your favorite song. Working against this was also the rowdy, talkative crowd. Packs of overly intoxicated - and most likely fraternity - "bros" made the pit situation even worse by persistently shoving and taunting fans that would not allow them closer access to the stage. Constantly, threats of violence echoed out down in the pit as if it were a battle between Jacket fans and the kids treating the experience as a keg party.

If any of these conditions affected My Morning Jacket, there was no way of telling. The setlist featured a number of specialties that had some fans overwhelmed. Following the opener, "Tonight I Want To Celebrate With You," twilight had struck the grounds, providing the perfect scenic conditions for a spine tingling "At Dawn." With twinkling specks of light reflecting off the lake positioned to the left side of the venue, the song had a genuine feel to it while acting as a gift to the folks hoping to hear anything off of At Dawn.

Watching Jim James' onstage antics also helped make up for the horrible atmosphere. Sporting a gun holster with a toy revolver and a Nintendo Duck Hunt gun inside, Jim showed off his slinging capabilities during "What A Wonderful Man" and "Touch Me Pt. 2." "Wordless Chorus" further displayed James' playful nature with the singer donning a cap and joyfully posing as a superhero. Remarkably, none of this distracts the rest of the musicians in the group. Bo Koster, Patrick Hallahan and Tom Blankenship all seemed to be feeding off the vibes James created throughout the night by gradually increasing the intensity of their playing.

Guitarist Carl Broemel was notably front and center for a good portion of the show, too. Between his feverish guitar solo on "Steam Engine" and dulcet display of saxophone playing on "Dondante," he had the chance to sing lead vocals on a new track, "Carried Away." Premiering at the band's recent Nashville stop, the tune finds MMJ going back to their It Still Moves days with a twangy, Southern feel.

Another highlight of the evening was the encore portion accented by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. For the second time this tour, the group busted out "Dancefloors" with the boys from NOLA backing them up. Having this and "Move On Up" - a Curtis Mayfield cover that premiered as the opener to MMJ's New Year's Eve show at Madison Square Garden in 2008 - being played at a regular Jacket stop felt absolutely sensational. With any luck, this tour will be the first in a long history of collaborations between the two ensembles.

As the saying goes, if you don't like something change it; and if you can't change it, change the way you think about it. In this case, the show should be remembered for the consequential value of premier musicianship by one of America's best live bands. No matter how obnoxious some spectators may have been, they can never take that away from My Morning Jacket.

My Morning Jacket :: 04.30.10 :: Koka Booth Amphitheatre :: Cary, NC
Tonight I Want To Celebrate With You, At Dawn, Gideon, Off The Record, What A Wonderful Man, I'm Amazed, Mahgeetah, Touch Me Pt 1, Golden, Steam Engine, The Way He Sings, Wonderful (The Way I Feel), Carried Away^, Dondante, Smokin From Shootin, (End Of) Run Thru, Touch Me Pt 2, One Big Holiday
E: Wordless Chorus, Dancefloors*, Highly Suspicious*, Carnival Time*, Move On Up*

^ Carl On Lead Vocals
* w/ Preservation Hall Jazz Band

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[Published on: 5/7/10]

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