Last Night: My Morning Jacket, Delta Spirit Verizon Theatre December 7, 2011
Better than: Watching My Morning Jacket on Palladia's Storytellers while your neighbor's dog barks nonstop.
My Morning Jacket has been praised as one of the best live bands currently working. Ask anybody who was at the Verizon Theatre last night and he or she will probably not disagree with you. If you asked how the venue's sound was, unfortunately, that's up for dispute.
Verizon's a big place, and the sound's supposed to travel all the way to the back wall, but that doesn't really qualify why some of My Morning Jacket's set was marred by punishing bass frequencies.
You're not reading EQ magazine here, but when songs like "Outta My System" and "Lay Low" were dominated by sub bass hits, the rest of the instruments and vocals were almost completely buried. Even audience members with earplugs felt like they were in the Battle of Britain.
Things would even out sound-wise, but whenever bassist "Two-Tone Tommy" Blankenship hit his low E or drummer Patrick Hallahan hit his bass drum, it felt incredibly jarring. You're supposed to enjoy these guys, right? Especially when they play for over two hours?
Once again, the five-piece played a very lengthy set (21 songs, to be exact), one that not only showcased their past four records, but obscurities as well. With favorites like "Golden," "It Beats 4 U," "Gideon," and "One Big Holiday," there were also tunes like "Heartbreakin' Man" from The Tennessee Fire and "Cobra" from the Chocolate and Ice EP. Plus, somehow they found time to play many songs from this year's Circuital.
If the band tends to play like every song is the last one of the night, well, that's what they do best live. And what's important to note is how fluid and natural material from Evil Urges and Circuital sounded live with their older brothers and sisters from the first four albums. Sure, on those newer releases, there is less reverb on Jim James' vocals and more keyboard/electronic tinges added to the sound. Yet sonic departures seemed to work out with the material closer to the reservation.
James, whose looks could fit in at a Molly Hatchet concert or a Lord of the Rings' convention, did very little talking throughout the night. Six songs in (with a black towel on his head, no less) he asked, "How you guys doing?" Talking to the crowd again only before their final song of the night, everything before was the band's usual rockin' magic.
Opener Delta Spirit played to a mostly empty venue, yet the California five-piece engaged those who watched. During their 45-minute set (which began at 7 o'clock sharp), they previewed new material from their forthcoming album while including a cover of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here." With four-part harmonies, their songs were jubilant and spirited, rarely slowing down until the final tune of the night.
Personal bias: This was my third time seeing My Morning Jacket. I first saw them when they opened for Guided By Voices at Trees in 2002 and was quite taken by them. An "indie rock Lynyrd Skynyrd," my friend Stephen decreed. I missed them when they hit up the Gypsy Tea Room a few times, but I saw them again at the Palladium back in 2008, aka, the night they covered "Tyrone" with Erykah Badu.
By the way:The second song into My Morning Jacket's set, you could smell a ton of pot throughout the pit area. Thankfully it was not skunk weed.
Random note: Patrick Hallahan came out and played with Delta Spirit on their fourth song.
My Morning Jacket's set list "Victory Dance" "Outta My System" "It Beats 4 U" "First Light" "I'm Amazed" "Masterplan" "Golden" "Heartbreakin' Man" "Off the Record" "Slow Slow Tune" "Smokin' from Shootin'" "Gideon" "Steam Engine" "Lay Low" "Wordless Chorus" "Holdin' on to Black Metal"
Encore "Circuital" "The Day Is Coming" "Cobra" "Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 2" "One Big Holiday"