Twenty-five years into their career, My Morning Jacket sound better than ever. The band brought their best to a three-night residency at The Beacon Theatre in NYC, which included a twentieth anniversary celebration of their seminal album, ‘It Still Moves’!
It can not be understated; My Morning Jacket is one of the best live bands out there.
Ever since I discovered the band My Morning Jacket while watching an episode of the cartoon American Dad — cleverly named “My Morning Straight Jacket” — some 12 or so years ago, I’ve been infatuated with its singer Jim James’ angelic falsetto and the outfit’s dynamic catalog of songs.
I’ve been meaning to catch MMJ live but I always seemed to be traveling or seeing another show when it was in town. I finally got to see the band, twice in fact, during its recent three-night residency at The Beacon Theatre to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of its seminal album It Still Moves and boy, do I regret not seeing a show sooner.
Night one was all about It Still Moves, as the band played the album front to back and debuted the fan-favorite B-side “Grab A Body” during the encore (which remains a personal highlight, the song’s groove has been an earworm all week). Several of the album’s songs are still in the band’s current rotation — “Golden,” “One Big Holiday,” and “Mahgeetah,” to name a few — but hearing tracks from the back half of the album like “Just One Thing” and “One In The Same” felt exceptionally special.
There wasn’t a dull moment during the entire evening as fans enthusiastically sang along to the album. Highlights outside the album included a bustout of “I Needed It Most” and a raucous rendition of “Phone Went West” imbued with the refrain of George Harrison’s “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)” to close out the night.
Although It Still Moves is 20 years old, My Morning Jacket sounds just as good, if not better, than it did at the time of its release. From James’ incredible vocals to guitarist Carl Broemel’s energetic solos and the buoying force of drummer Patrick Hallahan, it was at times hard to believe I was listening to a live band and not a studio-polished recording — perhaps in part to The Beacon’s impressive sound system.
I talked to some fans around me during the run and there seemed to be a unanimous consensus that the band was bringing its A-game. “I’ve seen these guys a lot over the years,” a 45-year-old fan told me during the band’s second performance last Friday. “But this is like the best show I’ve ever seen.”
Speaking of the second concert, night two was a great mix of deep cuts and hits. MMJ opened the show with a full album version of “Cobra” from its 2002 Chocolate and Ice EP, immediately letting the audience know we were in for a special night. Next, a run of hits “Gideon,” “The Way That He Sings,” and “Lay Low” had the place rocking from one tune to the next.
Later, another 2002 EP throwback “O Is The One That Is Real” from Split and a trio of songs from the band’s first album, The Tennessee Fire elated fans of the band’s early catalog. During the encore, the plaintive reflections of “Only Memories Remain” and a cover of the Cat Stevens’ song “The Wind” with assistance of opener Madi Diaz — who was spectacular, by the way — proved especially powerful. The evening ended on a high note as the beaming harmonies of ‘Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2” radiated happiness through the audience.
I didn’t catch the third night, but judging from the setlist it was a proper party — I’m still bummed I missed “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)” and “Dondante.” Oh no, I guess I’ll have to go to another show.
What perhaps impressed me the most throughout the weekend is that throughout the band’s 25-year run it has continually been able to evolve its sound while still maintaining the high-octane grooves and jams that put the band on the map.
Many bands from the aughts seem to cross a threshold once its members turn 40, or even 30, that sees new album lose their potency. My Morning Jacket has stayed immune from this. Songs from recent albums refer to familiar topics while settling into refreshing yet very “MMJ” grooves.
Fans gearing up to catch It Still Moves anniversary shows in Atlanta and Chicago are in for a treat. But it can not be understated; My Morning Jacket is one of the best live bands out there. Anniversary show or not, do not miss this band.
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© Rich Fury / MSG Entertainment
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