In May of this year, an impressive lineup for Salt Lake City’s Twilight Concert Series was announced. Beach House and The Walkmen were to open the series, big names like Nas and Common would assuredly attract the masses to Pioneer Park and Utah favorite – Band of Horses, “The Great Salt Lake” : enough said. But, among all of these impressive names, one especially stood out to me: My Morning Jacket. Excited! Thrilled! Overjoyed! This does not begin to describe how I felt about their slot on the lineup. I immediately vowed to be first in line and front row for Jim James and company. And three months later, I was.
Opening for My Morning Jacket that night was Utah folk singer-songwriter, Joshua James. He beamed with pride to be preceding one of his musical inspirations. He was also the only local artist asked to play Twilight this year. The audience absorbed his poignant lyrics and he successfully amped the crowd with his foot-stomping and dance-worthy songs.
As My Morning Jacket took the stage, their immediate energy permeated the crowd. They dove head first into the swelling guitars and escalating drums off the title track on their fifth album, Evil Urges. “Honey, it’s rotten and they’ve got us so scared!” Jim James’ signature falsetto shattered the anticipation that was hanging thick in the air. The venue was at an enchanted stand-still only briefly; the crowd quickly transformed from awestruck to frenzied. The band’s enthusiasm was mirrored in their audience as their opening song was met with dancing and cheering.The stage had been set…
The band kept the momentum going strong following “Evil Urges” up with a crowd favorite “Off the Record”, from their acclaimed fourth album, Z. In fact, the pace never slowed as Jim James’ and his band of Southern Gentlemen powered through an eighteen song set, chosen primarily by way of the Spontaneous Curation Series. This is a project created by the band giving fans the opportunity to help choose the setlist via Twitter- with no song or album exempt. This results in every performance being a unique experience as each setlist is diverse and spans their six album and multiple EP catalog. It also demonstrates the evolution of My Morning Jacket’s sound and Jim James’ songwriting, while simultaneously promoting their most recent album.
A large part of the band’s latest album, Circuital, was played; from the swaggering, choir laden “Holdin’ Onto Black Metal” complete with its impressive horn section to the multilayered, jovial confession of “Outta My System”. Glowsticks rained down on the crowd as flashing, incandescent lasers cut the night sky and the sound soared, traveling to the far reaches of downtown SLC.
My Morning Jacket’s chemistry was unparalleled to any other I’ve seen; Carl Broemel leapt and lunged onstage, trading guitar licks with a hooded Jim James while Patrick Hallahan’s feverish drumming hammered the crowd. James kept the banter to a minimum and instead focused on his showmanship. He spoke to the crowd only when he felt “The Power of the SLC” could not go unmentioned any longer. His stage persona was monumental and shamanic, he howled
and bellowed through a curtain of flying curls. It was, dare I say, almost Jim Morrison-esque. After preforming a rain dance and during the
droning and humming of “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Part 2”, James turned glowsticks that had made their way onstage into drum
sticks- or perhaps a conductor’s baton or magic wand- and led the buzzing reverb to a close.
The set ended with the lush (and a personal favorite) “Gideon” but, we weren’t left waiting long before a triumphant encore began with the very fitting, “Victory Dance”. Then the familiarity of “Wordless Chorus” resonated and the crowd erupted into a collective exclaim. Jim James paced the stage, channeling Dracula with his cloak before flinging it upward and bursting into an impassioned hair toss. The wails between Mr. Yim Yames and the crowd were unified until the last chord. The excitement and energy culminated in the last song, with Jim James on his Flying V guitar leading us through the ordered chaos of “One Big Holiday” the perfect finale.
The expectations I’d set for musical euphoria during this concert were ridiculously high; unobtainable for most other bands. But, My Morning Jacket largely exceeded what I expected. Not only have they earned their reputation as one of the best live bands currently touring, they also showed the Twilight Concert Series the best concert it has seen to date. My Morning Jacket is a true rock and roll band and Jim James a true musician… A rock god!