Loyal DCist reader Will managed to score a spare ticket for My Morning Jacket's show at DAR last week. And by ticket, I mean ten rows back in the middle. To repay his generosity, I ignored his requests to a) provide a setlist and b) write anything about the show.
No more. G.H. is a Rockist of his word.
The show was good. It was close to great. DC Rock Club have recently been vocal in not really understanding what these guys are all about, not really getting the hype (though they weighed in after this one). I'd argue that if you've given their albums a good shot (starting at the beginning with The Tennessee Fire, or at least At Dawn, still my favorite release of theirs and working up at least through Z) and you still don't like it, then the live show's probably not your thing either. But if their fuzzy Allmanisms at least pique your interest, then, really, get to a show.
This is a band that has grown into the arena-sized clothes (or capes?) that they've been threatening to don since "Magheeta" (which they didn't play) opened up the sprawling It Still Moves. Like many, I didn't love their latest, Evil Urges, though it had its moments. But a few songs -- like "I'm Amazed" and "Two Halves" -- were a little livelier, umm, live, where the focus wasn't so much on the sheen and vocal treatment you get on record. They did some weird stuff too, including a nearly 20-minute version of "Cobra" (a rare cut off the Chocolate & Ice EP) that might not win over the DCRC but was a welcome diversion. MMJ may have gained a lot of followers from jam-band crossovers, though they don't really jam in the sense that say, Phish or the Cornpone Pudding Project do. But, in my humble Rockist opinion, they're best when they sprawl. "Dondante", Z's closer, took a while to get going, but the late arriving chiming solo was gorgeous and gradually turned into a pretty damn awesome guitar freakout.
I should say a quick word about "Run Thru" too, which combines Jim James' penchant for a stupid as hell lyric ("Oh shit! Run! Oh shit! Run! / "Oh shit, run through the the ghetto!") with a guitar assault about as heavy as they come. It's half old-fashioned southern rock, half metal riffage, half light show. Yeah, light show. They actually didn't do a whole lot with the lights the rest of the set, but when they swirled and came up on the drummer during the breakdown, it was your quintessential arena rock moment, but with MMJ you sense that they think it's sort of awesome and sort of funny. Which is just enough irony for this Rockist.
Evil Urges / Anytime / Off the Record / Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Part 1 / Two Halves / Golden / Thank You Too! / I'm Amazed / The Way That He Sings / Sec Walkin / War Begun / Phone Went West (crap, meant to mention this...one of my all time favorites) / Cobra / Librarian / Dondante / Gideon / Lay Low / Steam Engine // Wordless Chorus / Highly Suspicious / Smokin from Shootin / Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Part 2 / Run Thru / One Big Holiday