It still moves all right. There were no video projections of My Morning Jacket’s performance at Boston’s Bank of America Pavilion, but that’s understandable. The camera operators would’ve been driven crazy trying to keep up with the irrepressible Jim James as he careened around the stage. Virtually the only moments the MMJ leader was less than a blur he was ‘saluting the power and strength of Boston’, as if the energy of the performance came from the audience. No doubt to a great that’s true and the crowd’s ardor no doubt became elevated with the placement stage left of a five-foot stuffed bear wearing a Red Sox t-shirt.
Throughout this single set September 6, James—and to an only slightly lesser extent the rest of the band– gave every impression he’s constantly discovering the sheer joy of live performing before an audience. His pleasure, in fact, is so intense and the avid response My Morning Jacket receives from their multi-demographic audience so genuine, that, when James comes to stage right or left playing his guitar of choice at the moment, he really seems to be making eye contact with his fans and vice-versa.
The depth of feeling in the miraculous range of his tenor voice, even given it’s soaked in reverb, no doubt goes straight to the heart of those fans. Why else the uproarious rapture to be heard on Boston harbor from a near-sellout crowd in harshly inclement weather caused by Hurricane Hanna? Granted, the music of MMJ is a potent mix of the formalism of the compositions of Neil Young and Crazy Horse alongside the anthemic drama of The Who in their prime. The expansion of style in recent years with contemporary electronica (which is where the keyboard colors of Bo Koster are crucial) and true soul (not just in Broemel’s sax on the extended “Dondante”) helped the pacing of the show, especially at mid-point: it set up the roaring climax.
My Morning Jacket is authentic, to be sure, in their devotion to the music as a means of reaching their listeners. Yet the physical manifestation of their commitment looks natural rather than put on and all the more exciting for that: it is definitely not the contrived posturing of hair shaking, guitar waving, and extemporaneous screaming as artifice. Little wonder impromptu sing-alongs erupted repeatedly during the evening.
Whatever you think of the latest My Morning Jacket album, Evil Urges, (flawed masterpiece or magnificent failure?) seeing the band live will renew and/or reaffirm your loyalty to them. New songs like “I’m Amazed” and “Aluminum Park ” are of a piece with vintage tunes like “Mahgeetah” and “Gideon” while the more experimental likes of ““Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pts 1 & 2 “ (out of the context of the latest cd) sounds like nothing so much as James’ healthy refusal not to become complacent within the classic rock and roll templates of the band’s earlier work like “Golden” (where again, Broemel’s demonstrates his versatility by weaving sweet steel guitar around the vocal).
Meanwhile, to see Jim James singing “Highly Suspicious” with a sweat-soaked towel over his head is proof-positive this is one ambitious artist who refuses to take himself too seriously. And why should he? There’s way too much fun to be had leaping around a stage with your band of brothers in front of thousands of spectators to whom you are imparting the distinct sensation they could be really be you …