My Morning Jacket Simply Blow Away Expectations at Red Rocks, 08-04-11

What a difference 24 hours can make.  Last night’s My Morning Jacket show at Red Rocks was the antithesis of the The Flaming Lips production the night before.  The band from Louisville, KY took the stage with nothing more than their instruments and their beards.  A little stained-glass to augment the natural background was all they needed.  No balloons, no confetti, no giant hamster balls —  just a group of guys using the iconic stage for what it was made for.  My Morning Jacket doesn’t need props, they simply play music non-stop for close to 3 hours — this is what they do, and damn if they don’t do it well!

The set started at 8:45pm with the band walking onto the stage without a word.  Victory Dance started the night out on a mellow note before exploding into a frenzy of distorted guitar.  Immediately frightened they would go down the road to nowhere — the path of the never-ending jam — it was a sweet relief when they brought it back from the edge of that precipice and into the title track from Circuital.  This was a nice warm up and in no way prepared us for what was to come.  It wasn’t until the triple slam of Z with Off The Record, Gideon and Lay Low that I realized why this band has been label THE band to see live.  Simple, understated, and yet at times rock out like they are impersonating a metal band — Jim James and his crew are essentially conduits for the music.  Sure, they are there, they are fun to watch, but it’s all about the music.  Ego does not exist.  This is something very unique.  For over 2 hours the only words spoken were ‘this is one of the great thrills of our lives‘  The feeling was reciprocated by over 9,000 fans.

Another unique aspect of last night’s show was the camera work.  Red Rocks only has one screen and usually the camera work is lazy as best.  The projection is nice for those in rows 50 and above, but it will never win awards for production value.  Last night was an exception.  I don’t know if the bands bring their own camera tech or what, but I have to give serious props to the person behind the lens during this particular set.

The wind was intense on this cooler evening at the Rocks, but from our seats in the 27th row, the sound was still amazing. Just another reason these guys are the real deal.  I have seen much louder, much heavier bands lose their sound to the wind up there.  Even the acoustic Wonderful (The Way I Feel) was as crisp as it was heartbreaking.

The night was a literal walk-through of their entire discography.  Almost the full new album, a half dozen from Z, quite a few from It Still Moves — they even took it back to At Dawn and The Tennessee Fire for a few tracks, but what was most impressive is how they transformed even the most mediocre tracks from Evil Urges into sing-along songs.  My Morning Jacket really does have a way with the live audience.  This was a very confident band — they owned the stage all the way through the set closer, Mahgeetah.  It could’ve ended there and no one would have been disappointed, but luckily they had quite the encore in store.

With so many good songs performed thoughout the night, I almost forgot they hadn’t played two of my personal favorites.  The encore opened with Wordless Chorus and ended the only way it could, with an explosive One Big Holiday.  I have to admit I walked into the show thinking I would merely enjoy the set and I walked out believing it might have been the best performance Red Rocks will see in the 2011 season.

Setlist:
Victory Dance
Circuital
Off The Record
I’m Amazed
Gideon
Lay Low
Outta My System
Wonderful (The Way I Feel)
The Bear
Steam Engine
First Light
Honest Man
Slow Slow Tune
Dondante
Smokin From Shootin
Run Thru (end only)
Strangulation!
Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Pt. 2
Mahgeetah

Wordless Chorus
Holdin’ On to Black Metal
Anytime
One Big Holiday

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