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My Morning Jacket @ Le National, Montreal 6/17/08


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My Morning Jacket

Le National, Montreal, QC

June, 17, 2008

Live Music Review

Review By: Dave Barrett

Photos By: Mike Bouchard

Download The Slip Press Photo

Jim James - My Morning Jacket

Seeing My Morning Jacket for the first time was a real eye-opener– I’d heard a few shows before and various tracks here and there but it didn’t prepare me for the spectacle that lay ahead.

The National is a good place to see a band– it’s a fairly intimate venue with a gently sloping wooden main floor and a balcony that offers a good view from anywhere. The acoustics were generally solid if perhaps a bit muffled under the balcony on the first floor.

This tour, being one to promote the new album is liberally flavoured with cuts from Evil Urges, and the show in its entirety highlighted the band’s versatility- delving into several distinct musical styles. The Evil Urges opener set the scene for the night– tight playing, great steady, crashing drumming, balanced with James’ vocal range, and their trademark guitar duelling.

The opening notes to Off the Record reminded me of the Hawaii Five- O theme song and the reggae-esque groove had the crowd moving. It seemed to me to be a bit like the Clash’s occasional foray into Caribbean style music but then after the bridge, I thought it built up nicely and the guitar work was well balanced- heavy crunchiness alternating with soaring solos. I should also mention that James pulls off the use of a Flying V really well— the kind of guitar often associated with metal & hair bands from the 80s (not to mention Jimi Hendrix and other guitar gods)— it doesn’t seem out of place at all. Actually I can picture him taking that thing to a professional dance competition and winning accolades, his pick of the female judges, prize money and the trophy.

The set was smattered with classic rock style songs, stamped with MMJ’s distinctive sound– high reaching falsetto, crashing drums, duelling guitars, colourful keys and tight bass lines. The lighting and effects throughout the set were pretty cool, a full colour spectrum of lighting combining with ample fog then explosions of blinding white light at the peaks of crescendos– must have been pretty memorable for those few in attendance with saucer-like pupils. Of these types of songs, Gideon seemed to have an underlying biblical theme; What a Wonderful Man was a headbanger of a song with the crowd roaring; I’m Amazed had a nice driving groove at the outset then morphed into a rocking old- school guitar solo; The Way that He Sings is a clanger– great groove (I have “Tom Petty sounding guitar” written in my notes), southern rockesque, and great harmonies; Remnants is a crunchy guitar heavy rocker. Hallahan (drums) got a good workout on this, a driving beat with flying guitar above.

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Slower, more soulful songs showcasing MMJ’s other side punctuated the rockers. Sec Walkin’ and Golden both featured pedal steel guitar were the alt-country portion of the night– the clearest sounding vocals of the night coupled with nice harmonies. The falsetto James at the end of Golden was haunting; Thank You Too saw some lovely harmonies. Soulful lyrically, the lead guitar parts complemented the melody nicely. I wanted to grab my date, slow dance a bit and maybe grab a little ass but his camera bag would have gotten in the way anyway; Smoking from Shooting struck me by the way in which the lyrics stood out. Nice melody, great little guitar duels; Wordless Chorus– nice offbeat, shuffling kind of groove. Predominant vocal line, soaring & falsetto vocals again. “We are the innovators/They are the entertainers”, indeed.

Highly Suspicious seemed to me to be a nod to Prince– extreme falsetto at the outset from James, a thump-thump beat and crunchiness coupled with throaty backing vocals. Weird, pounding, freaky, wonderful.

Lay Low saw James decked out in a cape. Yes, a cape. They’re back, if you haven’t heard already. Other theatrics and props popped up throughout the show– James with a towel draped over his head, a bear’s head and an axe-wielding James during Wordless Chorus adding to the festivities. The melody on this one initially reminded me of an 80s ballad song and I don’t mean that as an insult. Again the soaring vocals reverberated up through to the ceiling, tailed closely by a great guitar solo, which turned into a bit of a trademark duel. The crowd loved this one, a slow build up leading to a satisfying heaviness.

Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt.1 is vocal heavy and seems like a kind of love song, MMJ style. The flourishes from the keyboards reminded me of the Cars a bit. For a band known for it’s heavy rock shows this one provided a thematic counterpoint, slowing things down a bit but showcasing harmonic and melodic capabilities.

Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt.2 I thought was great, a definite highlight. The opening of it reminded me of something… a Supertrampesque use of the keyboard perhaps? The beat was a bit of a throwback to the 70s, punctured by falsetto “ooooooooooooh”s and screams. The crowd was a-groovin to this one, and the dirty guitar starting up halfway into the song added a great spicy flavour.

The encore was decidedly rocking and left the crowd satiated. It Beats 4 U features a prominent bass line and almost staccato counterpoint guitar picking. It had lots of people dancing all over the joint. Haunting vocals again, with a crunchy guitar riff coming in to balance the sound.

Dondante was the encore highlight for me. Nice and long with everything that you want from  MMJ. I think this song is the reason that I thought of Radiohead the first time I listened to MMJ- falsetto over top slow, quiet steady beats and subsequent explosions of sounds and heaviness. On from that point were Pink Floyd-like soaring harmonies and guitar duelling (some of which reminded me of Neil Young) then a nice rich haunting alto-sax at the end to round it out. Awesome.

Run Thru is a true rocker– guitar heavy with crashing cymbals, at the outset then settling into a steady groove highlighted by haunting lyrics. Great heaviness with the crowd loving it. Anytime and One Big Holiday finished the night off, raucous and floorshaking, a crowd-pleasing way to wind up a night full of challenging, colourful musical virtuosity.

My Morning Jacket - June 17, 2008


A selection of things from the set

Jim James w/cloth

Carl Broemel - My Morning Jacket

3 bits


Jim James Belts it Out

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