Last Night at ACL: My Morning Jacket Got a Little Weird, But Still Rocked

My Morning Jacket

AMD Stage -- Austin City Limits
September 17, 2011

Better than: about 99 percent of any other concerts I've ever seen.

Is My Morning Jacket the best live band on the planet? In the universe? They sounded like it on Saturday night at Austin City Limits Music Festival as they played an abbreviated set at the AMD stage.

Before my computer gets overloaded with hyperbole, I'll tap the brakes. But only a little.

The set was a far cry from Friday's headlining performance from Coldplay, who spent most of the night pandering to the audience. It was clear that My Morning Jacket, for the most part, did the set that they wanted to do. Either that, or they have the innate ability to perform songs thousands of times and make them sound like they were written yesterday.

Regardless, the crowd was glued to the setlist, which rewarded them with songs from their most recent album Circuital and older favorites, all of which were played with guts-out intensity. But even when lead singer Jim James was at his wildest, he and his bandmates didn't miss a single note.

My Morning Jacket kicked off the set with "Victory Dance," the first song from the new record. James, who appears to be getting weirder with each new album, started the song with a mouth trumpet. On "Circuital," he spanned the stage during the instrumental portions of the song. In fact, James was rarely near his microphone when he wasn't singing. He flailed wildly, took guitar solos while sprinting and sliding around the stage on his knees, and whipped his hair around like a speed metal guitarist. 

He had some strange moves as well. Several times, he stood at the front of the stage and rapidly kicked the air, as if fending off several thousand imaginary ninjas. At another point during a song break in "Magheeta," he did a full-blown Karate Kid crane kick.

"Goddamn, you guys make me feel like flying!" he told the crowd between songs, just before playing the harmonium with his face on "Touch Me, I'm Going To Scream Part 2."

Fortunately, it was easy to look the other way on James' amusingly strange behavior. The band, the songs, the performance -- it was all incredible. And what made it even more impressive was when the band was joined by New Orleans' Preservation Hall Jazz Band for "Holdin' On to Black Metal." 

Preservation Hall stuck around for the remainder of the set, which ended explosively with "One Big Holiday," a song meant to be played in front of a massive, energetic festival crowd.

At the end of the song, the band said goodnight and Jim James held a large, golden bear above his head.

Whatever, man.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias: I am a full-blown My Morning Jacket fan. Have been for years. And, after last night's performance, I'll go on record and say that they are the best live band in America.

Random Note: The crowd was packed so tight up in the front that if you had to pee, finding an empty bottle on the ground was your only option. It happened. Not to me, but to my friend. Yeah, that's it.

By The Way: The festival runs a tight ship. When My Morning Jacket went into "One Big Holiday," I thought the set was only halfway over. It was the only time I've ever seen them play without an encore.

Victory Dance
Off the Record 
I'm Amazed 
Out of My System 
Smokin' From Shootin'
Touch Me, I'm Going To Scream Part 2
Wordless Chorus 
Holdin' On to Black Metal 
One Big Holiday 

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