My Morning Jacket Concludes 2019 Red Rocks Run: Setlist, Review & Audio
Practically every single belief structure since the beginning of recorded history highlights a duality, or figure-ground, of Darkness and Light. Heaven and Hell; Creation and Destruction; Chaos and Order; Yin and Yang. One cannot exist without the other, and it takes a measured, balanced abundance of both to create a whole, or gestalt.
From the very moment that the earliest congregations of fans began arriving at the base of “The Birth Canal of The Universe” (see the previous night’s recap) for My Morning Jacket‘s Saturday concert at Red Rocks in Morrison, Colorado it was evident that the second of two nights would be vastly different. Despite another scorching summer day, the temperatures seemed to be dropping more urgently as the sun bid her adieu, cool breezes whipped through the juniper trees lining both sides of the venue, and instead of a fiery orange sunset lighting up Creation Rock to the north and Ship Rock to the south, the sky drifted off to sleep in hues of aquamarine and deep, dark indigo. Further, while both opening acts hailed from L.A. and found roots in pop and psychedelia, Amo Amo – who’s debut album of the same name was produced by Jim James, presented a more organic groove in contrast to Warpaint’s focused gloss. They closed their set with “Antidote,” which would have been right at home in a late-1970s era Grateful Dead setlist, with familiar guitar phrasings and tone and a slow, disco-esque shuffle.
Before My Morning Jacket left the stage on Friday night, frontman Jim James promised “no repeats” for night two, and the possibilities felt endless. The polished and precise performance from the first night featured a measured dip into each of their seven studio albums, zero covers, zero tunes from James’ solo work, and perhaps most notably, zero new material. And as the throwback house music dissolved into the opening Bo Koster‘s synth pulse of “Wordless Chorus,” with the (somehow different) lights slowly rising on a caped and hooded James, the energy shift was evident to all. MMJ’s second most all-time played tune typically finds its home much later in the setlist, often as a set closer or an encore tune. After the signature hooting, howling sing-a-long that makes the tune a fan favorite, it ended rather abruptly. James kept his cape on, as though he was still looking to get comfortable on-stage, and the completion of the ensuing “Touch Me, I’m Going To Scream, Part 1” felt equally as sudden.
The energy began to shift during “Off The Record,” as the band was finally able to find a little space to stretch. James made his way up and down the stage with an almost feral gait, making every attempt to connect with members of the audience. “Lay Low” came next, the third track of the night off Z, the most beloved album of many a fan and the frenzied peak seemed to match the raw, almost supernatural, energy of the evening. The first breather of the evening came a little earlier than on Friday, in the form of two consecutive Tennessee Fire tracks, “Evelyn Is Not Real” and “Picture Of You.” Both tunes have become rarities since their inception at the tail end of the last century, and the more casual fans rushed the beer and bathroom lines. “Picture Of You” morphed from a lilting lover’s lament to one of the first big shreds of the evening, placing James and guitarist Carl Broemel front and center, face-to-face, and axe-to-axe.
Yet another Z track followed, and while Broemel’s signature lick felt low in the mix, putting Tom Blankenship’s bass pulse front-and-center, “Gideon” landed solidly with a huge finish from drummer Patrick Hallahan. “Outta My System” once more presented James in a wild light, the lyrics thrashing out with fervor. The mysterious vigor continued throughout the hard and heavy “Holdin’ On To Black Metal,” which elicited big cheers from the crowd. James seemed to recognize the aforementioned duality of the weekend, emphasizing certain lyrics to the subsequent “Evil Urges” – “…maybe good and bad? It’s all the same?” – and then nailing his machine gun riff to complete the tune.
Speaking up for really only the first time in the evening after a notably chatty Friday night, James made a quick dedication to “Billy,” reminding us that “your health is your wealth,” and then launched into a “Steam Engine” for the ages.
Friday night’s “Dondante”: “I’ll be remembered as the most momentous jam of the weekend.”
Saturday night’s “Steam Engine”: “Hold my LSD-laced tequila.”
“It’s not the dream… that makes you weak…” sang a clearly emotional James, washed in a watercolor sea of blue light. The song reached its first sweet and sparkly peak before mounting a huge head-bang-a-thon that stomped its way into a dark, heavy drum-driven psychedelic jam. Over the supernatural soul-pounding slash of the band, James began to quote his hero, John Lennon. The first verse of the Lennon-McCartney composition, “Get Back,” gave way to “Imagine,” which was then followed by quite possibly the darkest black metal “Lean On Me” (Bill Withers) sing-a-long ever in existence. The full-throttle “Steam Engine” continued to tear along its metal rails, with a few more Lennon quotes from James before dissolving into “Bermuda Highway” bliss. This sublime solo telling, which included a brief “Storytellers” moment (his little stuffed animal that he loved would always fall in between the crack of the bed and the wall), generated more than a few tears of love and gratitude throughout the venue.
Steam Engine > Get Back > Imagine > Lean On Me > Steam Engine
Captured by Joe Long
After largely ignoring their most recent album the night before, a run of tracks off The Waterfall (with a psychedelic “It Beats 4 U” in the mix) made their appearance. “Big Decisions,” the first single from the album, seemed to glide magically atop Broemel’s pedal steel, and both “Tropics” and “Compound Fracture” proved to be two of the hardest rockers of the night. Once the fierce fracturing had finished, James implored, “is there a doctor in the house tonight?” Another favorite on fans’ wish lists for the weekend, the tender “Phone Went West” generated yet another impassioned sing-a-long. James’ vocal riffing continued over the tune’s reggae lilt with a bit of Bob Marley and more Lennon, and as the tune began morphing its way back into “Steam Engine,” with a chorus of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” the enchanted vibe of the evening reached yet another peak. The band crowded around each other for a full-shred finish, looking like a young metal band in a crowded garage, reducing their finest song to tatters, and then they vanished from the stage, leaving behind only darkness and a growl of distortion.
After the brief encore break, James led the audience in a group howl that floated eerily up to the desert sky before slithering into “Spring (Among The Living),” yet another fist-pumper from The Waterfall. Next came “Magic Bullet,” which debuted in 2017, has only been performed two other times, and was the closest thing they played to new material. Weird and wonderful “Highly Suspicious” had fans dancing in the aisles like robotic crabs, and the much darker second part of “Touch Me, I’m Going to Scream” briefly quieted for James’ appeal for hugs and “sloppy, wet and consensual kisses,” before tearing back into a hard rocking outro, reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” And finally, no big MMJ weekend would be complete without “One Big Holiday.”
If Friday night was polished and bright, then Saturday night was dark and raw, filled with ghosts and blades. After all, you can’t have shadow without light. And with only two more dates on their calendar and nothing more promised, the future of My Morning Jacket both shines with the radiance of potential and remains shrouded in mystery. Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me I’m right.
Full Show Audio (Taped by opsopcopolis)
One Big Holiday Captured by djskindoc
I Will Sing You Songs Captured by djskindoc
My Morning Jacket at Red Rocks Amphitheatre
- Strip Tease
- Wordless Chorus
- Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 1
- Off the Record
- Lay Low
- Evelyn Is Not Real
- Picture of You
- Outta My System
- Holdin On to Black Metal
- Evil Urges
- Steam Engine
- Bermuda Highway
- Big Decisions
- Tropics (Erase Traces)
- It Beats 4 U
- Compound Fracture
- Phone Went West
- Spring (Among the Living)
- Magic Bullet
- Highly Suspicious
- Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 2
- One Big Holiday