Published by JB on August 14, 2015
Concert review: My Morning Jacket at the Starlight Theater – Kansas City – August 13, 2015
“Right back in the same place that we started out”
My Morning Jacket has always been way ahead of the curve over other rock bands in the past 15 years with their untamed skills at turning average album tracks into onstage stunners. For the majority of a perfect summer Kansas City night, two-thirds of the show was filled with the larger-than-life sound that has become My Morning Jacket’s staple. Long gone are the tiny theaters they destroyed during the first half of their career. Long gone is giving a hoot about their records. This is a band built for the stage, not the studio.
Beginning the show with the Waterfall album opener and anthemic ‘Believe’, it was ironically followed up by the still perfect as hell ‘I’m Amazed’. So do you believe, or are you just amazed? Or both? Either way, while wearing dark shades for the entire show there was no one going to argue with the most rock-and-roll version of Jim James to date. Holding a guitar for the majority of the show he has eschewed the microphone wagging approach of his solo tour and even scaled back his stage prowess from what it was merely 5 years ago. His guitar talents are understated, only because he’s the 2nd best guitarist on the stage. But the musical talent of the My Morning Jacket main man is the quintessential force of a band that has a reached a point where it needs to answer to no one. (And was it me, or does Carl Broemel often sound more and more like David Gilmour?)
James has also scaled back the chit chat and audience interaction. Other than a short plug about his delight at being one inch from a polar bear at the KC Zoo (a mere walk across the parking lot) he was all business, and he looked all business. Perhaps he was anxious to get on the road for Red Rocks, but where the show lacked personality it made up for in beautifully timed forays into the My Morning Jacket past, which quite honestly exceeds the songs of My Morning Jacket present. Tracks from Circuital have never sounded better or more refreshing and when played alongside tracks from the The Waterfall, they simply sound stronger between the two. ‘Victory Dance’ now oddly follows the Circuital title track on this night (which is the reverse of the album order) and ‘Dance’s building pulse dominates even the show opener ‘Believe’, and does so with surprising ease. The by-the-numbers run through of ‘Circuital’ simply thumps The Waterfall‘s most pulsating track, ‘Compound Fracture’.
Could this all be a sign that we now revere the My Morning Jacket catalog more than we embrace new material? Maybe so but it’s nothing that a new, stellar double album of original material in 2017 won’t cure. However, for this night a celebration of past hits (well, mostly non-hits actually) still provided the evening’s undoubtable highlights. ‘Off the Record’ was indeed that. ‘Wordless Chorus’ still sounds like it was hatched out of a dream and ‘I’m Amazed’ is still as perfect as any rock track in the past two decades. As James, with acoustic guitar held high in the air, ended ‘Circuital’ with the final, reflective lyric, “We ended up in the same place, that we started out”, it wrapped up the vibe of the evening just right. So true. Perfection comes in small doses and for 110 minutes in Kansas City there was just enough of it.