Few bands in our current musical era have amassed such an impressive catalogue of music as My Morning Jacket. In just over two decades, the Louisville band have proven themselves to be one of the most dynamic and exploratory bands in rock with each album pushing their sound into new sonic dimensions. Most importantly, they have always been that rare breed of band that makes solid studio albums while also being one of the best live acts around. With their self-titled ninth studio album due out October 22nd, My Morning Jacket is on the road once again and on Tuesday, September 28th they made their way through Oregon with a memorable show at Edgefield just outside Portland.
Musically speaking, Durand Jones & the Indications have little in common with My Morning Jacket, but they proved to be a stunner of an opening act with a set that reveled in the kind of throwback soul music that doesn’t feel the least bit contrived. With a band that included backup singers and an effortlessly cool percussion player, the Indications gave the crowd a taste of their new album Private Space, which veered from funkified soul to feel-good disco dance tunes and everything in between. Jones himself was all smiles as he pranced across the stage and delivered smoky, laid back vocals, even treating the crowd to his own treatment of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” that gave the original a run for its money. However, it was drummer Aaron Frazer who stole the show with his soothing falsetto that brought to mind Curtis Mayfield at his finest. Any time Frazer took the spotlight – on drums and vocals no less – to play a tune off his 2020 solo album Introducing… (a personal favorite of the year for this writer), he had the crowd in the palm of his hand with his effortless and smooth sense of cool and sheer talent as a singer.
As the last light of day faded out, My Morning Jacket took the stage and got right down to business with a suspense-building “Spring (Among The Living)” that dropped into a funky Afrobeat-inspired groove and plenty of guitar soloing from Jim James on his Flying V. The band continued to let their music swell and build with the psych-pop tune “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 1” with plenty of jagged guitar riffing before leaning into the reggae funk of longtime favorite “Off The Record.” Much to the enjoyment of their fans, the band would gift the audience with a slew of their best-known tunes throughout the night, touching on nearly all of their albums.
Over the course of two and a half continuous hours, the band never let the energy dwindle for a second. Highlights of the marathon set included the stoner rock “Wasted” that morphed into a monster blues jam, “Feel You” exuding classic rock power with an R&B cool and lots of dueling guitars for epic effect, “I’m Amazed” starting slow and poignant before blowing up into full-fledged rock and roll anthem,” and new song “Love Love Love” with Jim James laying down Prince-like vocals over an almost industrial funk beat and harmonies that washed over the crowd. “It Beats 4 U” saw Tom Blankenship getting into thick and urgent bass lines that would soon contrast with the playful, bouncing twang of “Climbing the Ladder” that killed time while James’ pedal board got fixed. By the time the band made their way to the joy-inducing guitar slay fest that is “One Big Holiday,” they had made it clear that their magic is in the way they know how to use rock and roll to tap into pure euphoria. This feeling would transpire throughout the set, whether in the stirring acoustic moment of James serenading the crown with “Wonderful (The Way I Feel),” playing the huge and soaring “Anytime” like their lives depended on it, or projecting pure disco ball bliss on “Wordless Chorus.”
After leaving the stage and returning for a quartet of songs, the band still had the audience hanging on every note. During these songs and everything that preceded them, there was constant guitar interplay to make for incredible peaks and valleys, and every time you thought a song might mellow out, you were swept you up into a wave of powerful instrumentation and pure joy. Their ability to weave in classic rock, psychedelic pop, prog, and even heavy metal riffage was on full display, equating to a full experience that was enhanced by a mind-bending, sensory-blasting light show. My Morning Jacket has always been somewhat of a humble act, but Tuesday’s show made it clear that they’re one of the tightest rock outfits ever to exist and should be selling out arenas wherever they go.
Photos by Greg Homolka
Great night ??????