“Babe, let’s get one thing clear. There’s much more star dust when you’re near” from ‘A New Life’ by Jim James at First Avenue in Minneapolis.
Photos by Joe Stadele and Jeff Becker. Review by JB. Published on April 22, 2013 by JB.
Jim James and Cold Specks
- First Avenue,
- Minneapolis, MN.
- April 21, 2013
While purposefully avoiding any prior reviews from the rollicking Jim James solo tour, I attended the Minneapolis show with unfounded apprehension – nervous that James would get lost into the slow, spacey, over-dramatic side of his new album’s weaker tunes. What I failed to recall was that James has a stage presence that is one part Mick Jagger, one part Tom Petty and another part mixed with Dylan and Jeff Tweedy. James is becoming this decade’s Jeff Tweedy – and rapidly. Just as Tweedy has essentially become the closest thing of an heir apparent to Dylan himself (sorry Bruce, it’s true), James is catching up by leaps and bounds. James is a divine master onstage – a true black belt with a towel on his head. He was acute at dividing this show into three equal parts – two of which were devastatingly great and one (the middle section leading up to the end of the first set) that allowed us to collect our breath as he rockstar-posed himself to all corners of the stage while stretching out songs for several minutes – often nearly too long. However, the first 30 minutes and final 30 minutes of this show were jaw-dropping.
The opening quintet of songs including the absolutely dazzling ‘A New Life’ were spectacular and showed James in his most extroverted style – lunging towards the fans, prancing from side to side onstage with nearly constant contact as he replayed all the best tracks from his solo album. If you’ve gone months without seeing James play live – and you’ve absorbed a plethora of other live music in the meantime as I have, you become instantly aware again of his immaculate voice and heavenly falsetto. His voice glides effortlessly and is by far the most gravitating instrument onstage. His ability to connect instantly with an audience is nearly unmatched and his range of skills as elite vocalist, rock guitar hero, saxophonist, dancer (well, sorta) and stage commander are becoming one of legend – albeit true. Jim James, the performer, is outstanding and 15 minutes into the show he erases any wonderment from the fan base if he could approach the same magic on a solo front as he creates during his day job with My Morning Jacket. No problem sir. Mission accomplished.
The middle section of the show sees the momentum take a misdirection in both style and mood. James becomes introverted, the tracks get extended, the hair ball version of James is unleashed and at times even approaches over-indulgence. But this is a rock show, and rock and roll’s foundation is built upon over-indulgence so we suck it up and take one for the team. The show, as I was told would wrap up at the 90 minute mark at 11:10. The encore began at 10:50 and I’m assuming we’re two or three songs and out. No chance. James reverts back to the style of the opening 30 minutes – jumping from one My Morning Jacket cover to a couple beauties from his Monsters of Folk record. Five songs in and we still have time for one more – the finale ‘Losin yo Head’. Any preliminary thoughts of this being the quaint, introspective side of James were long gone 45 minutes ago. It’s 11:30 and the hair is still flying. Relentless but gentle, terrifying yet overtly soft-spoken, thrashing yet delicate as an angel – the many faces of Jim James were on display in Minneapolis and there is no doubt remaining that he is the singular most compelling rock performer right now. Crushing!
- State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)
- Know Til Now
- Dear One
- A New Life
- Of the Mother
- All Is Forgiven
- God’s Love to Deliver
- Wonderful (The Way I Feel)
- (My Morning Jacket song)
- Dear God (Monsters of Folk)
- The Right Place (Monsters of Folk)
- Changing World (New Multitudes cover)
- Losin’ Yo Head(Monsters of Folk)