Published by JB on October 13, 2015
My Morning Jacket – Strand of Oaks – at the Brooklyn Bowl – Las Vegas – October 9-10, 2015
Stretching their deep catalog one inch at a time…..
It’s not a coincidence that My Morning Jacket doesn’t make a big deal about Record Store Day – the most lucrative day of sales the music industry has. I assume it’s because their records are merely the tame appetizer to their live show. On vinyl they sometimes sound tepid – not sure how to compel an audience listening through mediocre ear buds. But with a live show even their most ordinary album tracks spring to life, as if you just needed to add a cup of water and three hours of sunshine. Moments later you have this fully blossomed rock and roll festival onstage whereas the album is merely a polite souvenir. The My Morning Jacket live show is an unpredictable, 3-D experience in vibrating surround sound.
The two shows at the Hollywood Bowl were very light on conversation, heavy on extended versions, and interjected with deep tracks, both new and old. The caveat is that My Morning Jacket’s deepest tracks aren’t always their best. To the band’s eternal credit, they could (and would) play a four-night stand with four mutually exclusive set lists. So a two-night stay is merely a light shrug into their catalog. Two nights means 45 different songs, and away we go. Hear your favorite jam on night one and you better keep it close to your heart – because you won’t hear it tomorrow night. The drawback of this obvious perk is that stretching too far into the Jacket’s catalog comes with some inherent limitations. Tracks can lose momentum, slow the show’s inertia, or just flat out struggle with an audience that perhaps only 10% are familiar with.
The 5-man ensemble onstage is second to no one. But stretching their catalog to its thinnest line is a risk, and one that pays off only occasionally. In years past My Morning Jacket played a tighter setlist, more true to their standouts, with less bombastic finishes (or at least it seemed that way). But with the Waterfall tour every song is a candidate for a rock and roll revival. Given that they’re still the finest live band in the world and have been since about 2008. To these ears they’ve simply seemed better in the recent past. True to form though it’s still a memory for the ages to see a band like this in their prime. Were the Beatles better in 1966 than they were in 1964? Maybe. But who cares. It was the Beatles. In their prime. Same goes for My Morning Jacket during this reign of stage dominance.
Decades from now we may look upon this tour as their best – the one in which they stretched their legs (and their fanbase) the most. Jim James is the coolest man in rock with a backing quartet that whales away with unresting ease. From the opening notes of ‘Circuital’ on night one to the six-track encore on night two, they make no apologies for what they are; the greatest live band in the world doing whatever they want to do.