Words & Images by: Jake Krolick
My Morning Jacket :: 08.29.10 :: River Stage at Great Plaza :: Philadelphia, PA
On a normal day it's hard to top a My Morning Jacket concert, but it becomes extra special when it's the closing show of their summer tour. Filling shoes much bigger than maybe you or I had ever imagined, My Morning Jacket finds itself at the top of an ever-changing landscape of American rock bands. These travelers from Kentucky set Philadelphia's River Stage at Great Plaza ablaze as they crushed their way through 22 glorious songs that made the evening feel like it was over in two minutes not two hours.
The venue sits on the banks of the Delaware River between the Ben Franklin and Walt Whitman Bridges. Hundreds of steps cascade down to the water's edge and are separated with manmade waterfalls and pathways. It slays that parking lot venue, the Festival Pier , to bits. Place My Morning Jacket on the stage during sunset and it's one heck of a show.
A slightly shaggier than normal Jim James made us Philadelphians feel extra special as he warmly thanked opener Scott McMicken from local favorite Dr. Dog. McMicken's own set was quite moving, and he sprinkled in several acoustic versions of Dr. Dog tunes including a tender version of "Jackie Wants a Black Eye" off Dr. Dog's latest, Shame Shame. His backdrop was a stellar homemade home façade complete with a suitcase, curtains, shelves and even a hole in the faux-wall for a mouse. Whether he plucked the banjo or strummed the guitar, his songs seemed to compliment the evening.
My Morning Jacket crept on stage through a haze of a manmade mist ready to produce a setlist that was packed with almost their entire catalog. The first half of the set grew superbly and got the blood flowing as we heard the band sink their teeth into "Mahgeetah," "Golden," a rare "Honest Man" and a new lavish, down tempo song called "Circuital." The new tune has tons of potential and is destined to take its royal place in the MMJ catalog. James demonstrated his ability to get loose on an acoustic guitar and started to really flex his vocals on the new tune.
During "I'm Amazed," bassist Tom Blankenship, guitarist Carl Broemel and Jim James huddled in front of Patrick Hallahan's green star covered drum kit. This has become the standard mode of operation for the group as they break out into wild undulations, fanatical changes, and some good old-fashioned head banging. The rest of the band played while James pulled a rubber donkey mask over his head to sway through the song's finish. He was super animated before going into the center cut of the show, which slowed for "Tonight I Want to Celebrate With You," "Steam Engine" and "Smokin' from Shootin." This trio gave the band time to play with the melodies and jam on some of the finer, softer moments. These calm songs offered a wonderful window to peek at this band's great depths.
The encore was loose and wild as MMJ rocked "Wordless Chorus," which took James's beatific voice to a whole new level. "Highly Suspicious" was an excuse to dance as James donned his black cap and channeled his inner Phantom of the Opera. James gave quite a show as he did a bevy of his best famous rockers imitations while heaving himself back and forth across the stage. The finale was the oh-so-fitting "One Big Holiday." Its swelling build and remarkable release left the entire venue in a state of exhilaration as they staggered toward the exits.
My Morning Jacket will play each of their records straight through over five nights in October. I'd say those five nights in New York City are going to be one tough ticket to come by but so worth doing everything in your power to acquire.
Rollin Back (intro), The Way That He Sings, Gideon, Anytime, Mahgeetah, Golden, Circuital (NEW), It Beats 4 U, Honest Man, I'm Amazed, Easy Morning Rebel, Tonite I Want to Celebrate With You, Steam Engine, Smokin From Shootin, (end of) Run Thru, Touch Me I'm Going To Scream Pt.2, (end of) Lay Low
E: Wordless Chorus, Touch Me I'm Going To Scream Pt.1, Highly Suspicious, Off The Record, One Big Holiday
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