BY LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
MYMORNINGJACKET.NET USERNAME: Lonndown27
Simulcast live online as it went down for paying customers, this show has been sealed for time and all eternity through the cinematic eye of world class photographer and MMJ friend Danny Clinch.
Without a single backstage shot, the director still managed to take us behind closed doors and into the Jacket's orbit, granting us the most professionally point blank representation of live My Morning Jacket shot on film since Okonokos.
From the funky opening shot of the band waiting to take the stage (high fives and all) until the final Skynyrding moments of a bombastic "One Big Holiday", Clinch's footage remains a remarkable marvel, finding itself perfectly languishing between the swirling ethereal headtrip of Marc Janowitz's light show, the psychedelic protocol of the band's new Waterfall tracks, the octave pedal buzz-saw inclined re-imagining of older songs like "At Dawn", or one of the most uplifting, raucous versions of "Gideon" we've ever witnessed (complete with aerial angles showing the band's entire equipment rig in all its scientific glory).
With the eyes of the world watching this broadcasted "once in a lifetime, first time in a career" event, the Jacket were ready for domination, they were ready to open the vault...only just enough for a tantalizing peek.
The show's opener was one of the more institutionally kick-ass versions of "Wordless Chorus", Jim stalking the front of the stage, his sunglasses now so iconic they must've been glued to each one of his temples...and while many, including myself, moaned at the lack of imagination in the choice of opener, this edition of "Wordless Chorus" may be the song at its most swaggering, crowd-releasing manifest.
What followed over the course of 28 epic songs (and a reprise) was a journey through the life of My Morning Jacket, exploring the surfaces of each MMJ planet, dipping their toes into new album "The Waterfall" the most, while the most futuristic songs from "Z" remained in heavy focus.
No, there wasn't a "Rollin Back" bust out, much to the chagrin of the die hards; there were no sequels to the revamped, piano-led "How Do You Know" (played the previous show in St. Louis); there were no attempts at the White Whale of all Jacket songs, 2004's "How Could I Know" or any of the other fabled "white whales" within the Jacket songbook...
But the band broke out one of their oldest and greatest tracks for the event, plundering along to rarely played "I Think I'm Going To Hell" for the first time at Red Rocks ever (first time played out of 11 shows).
A few days earlier, Jim began the intro to "Hell" in Atlanta, but aborted the attempt just as fans understood what riff he was shaking out (problems with Carl's slide or Goldtop Les Paul seems to have been the culprit).
Although they played The Tennessee Fire closer to completion the next night again within Atlanta's Fox Theater, nobody was expecting My Morning Jacket to use "Hell" during the most eagerly anticipated gig of their career.
But the echoing dirge fit perfect, like a craven choir hymnal bouncing from rock to rock, heaven to hell, shining a light on one of their most forgotten masterpieces. Carl's snaking, delay filled guitar swung demonic oceans above our heads, the sparks flying off his guitar tasting our scalps with a flame's kiss throughout each wild vibrato from his slide...over the course of 3 hours, Broemel wrapped his hands around our ears and imprinted our cochleas with golden Jacket stardust, wielding his Les Paul like a rock and roll sultan who just killed the king.
Despite the band representing "Hell" with a definitive, note perfect rendition found on Okonokos (film of the track included on the bonus DVD Acoustic Chorale) I may actually prefer Jim's huskier voice and the weird banks of digital delay on the 2015 edition (in comparison to Okonokos' reverb-caked bludgeoning from 10 years before).
However few rarities were supplied on the set list itself, the band still fantastically offered up greatness and delivered the goods:
That trippy, one-off segue tying the ending of "At Dawn" into "In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)", the eternal chant of "again" at the close of "Dawn" into the opening "agaaaain" mysticism of "Infancy", sexually sync'd together to devastating thematic effect; later in the set, the intriguing "Steam Engine > "Only Memories Remain" > Steam Engine" sandwich provided a profound new form of live brilliance emanating from the band.
While not completely successful, this "Steam-Memories-Steam" medley was an experiment the band only performed twice (first time at Atlanta's Fox Theater) it will forever stay noticed as the shocking first and only time "Steam Engine" was cut in half....right as it builds, just slammed shut for 4 1/2 minutes of "Memories"...then a weird pause...then "TAKE YOUR MONEY AND YOUR DRUUUUUUGS!" as Janowitz's lights illuminate the first 100 rows in volcanic light.
Sure, the band messed around adorning songs with segues or inverting two like-minded tracks together for years by 2015, but this straight up sandwich felt like a bold, loud new dimension of MMJ's live gigography altogether....a new jam-obsessed frontier in which anything is possible on stage with those five men...
RR2015 shows the band on that edge wondering where to go next:
Do we take the momentum of 30 minute versions of "Dondante", 25 minute "Phone Went West" medleys alongside Marley's "Could You Be Loved" or "Stir It Up" and fly?
Do we keep forging on in this intergalactic odyssey and eschew our typically pragmatic jamminess (10-15 mins instead of 30+ minute jams, inserting more older rarities rather than cover song gumbo)??
Because of this interesting jam-heavy transition during the later Waterfall tour (2016-17), RR2015 has a lot of fans...the gig forecasted the band's new mutation as a utopian phenomena: a natural, learned metamorphosis over years of living music...sharpened like iron, as tasteful & refreshing as an aged wine.
Thanks to the manner in which Danny Clinch's motion picture quality cinematography captured it all, the epic, nearly mandatory 3 hour running time, and the fact this show was many a new Jacket fan's first time at Red Rocks, RR2015 has become a visual mainstay for any true Jacket obsessive.
Older fans may dislike the lack of any true rarities outside of "Hell", though the real joy of this epic show is the way My Morning Jacket reinvent their standard war horses, creating an all new jubilee which belies the "same old same old" set list on paper.
If you were ever a My Morning Jacket fan in the first place, then you were well aware of the brilliance of "Lay Low", "Steam Engine", "Dondante", "Phone Went West", "Gideon" etc...they'd drilled the original versions of those anthems into our skulls and now was the time to allow the band to fuck the songs up, stretch them out, wear them thin, bend them...maybe even break them...our expectations be damned...
There had never been this many eyes staring upon a My Morning Jacket concert all at the same time, from Red Rocks to your living room, your laptop in the backyard, your projector screen in the basement...My Morning Jacket welcomed every fan by quickly hiring Clinch to film only a week before the show, announcing the webcast on the 11th, such was the spontaneity of the decision.
Along with the intimacy of Clinch's cinematography, we get a closer look at the surgical precision of the modern day My Morning Jacket touring machine, all 27 different guitar changes included.
The live footage also benefits the Floydian abyss of Janowitz's triumphant lighting, creating a sprawling aura that really begins to take hold on screen when in conjunction with the prog-soul-comicisms of then-new Waterfall tracks "Tropics (Erase Traces)", "Spring (Among The Living)", and "In Its Infancy".
Thanks to his close friendship and familiarity with the band, Clinch is able to spot every little thing a Jacket nerd would obsess over:
The close-ups of Carl's beloved black Les Paul aka "Blackie", the drips of sweat from Tom's head on to his Fender bass's pickguard, the synchronized pause between Jim and Pat at the end of a rip-roaring "Mahgeeta", the singer-songwriter-guitarist holding his Gibson ES-335 into the air as if it were a reptilian garden hose.
Although My Morning Jacket have such a vast discography to share with the unsuspecting music fan, RR2015's intentions were obvious: world domination.
The time had come for planet earth to finally understand the coded language and soul-Whitney sexathon of "Wordless Chorus"; it was time to feel the disco-on-fire / Estevez on 'luudes adventure within "Touch Me Pt.II's" boundless grooves...and the table was now set for jaw-dropping synthesis once Carl's memorable sax-beckoning segue from "Steam Engine" into another bombastic "Phone Went West" began, the carnal reggae of "West" displacing the minds of every fan in attendance once the iconic "Celestial Jam" section began.
While we wait for Okonokos II's arrival, or for YouTube to stop blocking uploads of 2011's Unstaged show, Clinch's 2015 Red Rocks footage may be as far as we'll ever get to a proper sequel for the 2006 concert film....
Despite its greatest hits-y setlist, the one night 2015 Red Rocks stand was of the highest order, a show I'm still traumatized for missing (still haunts me)....but thanks to Danny Clinch's all-encompassing lens, we can be closer to unveiling the monolithic mystery that is My Morning Jacket....undeniable, mercurial...infinite.
BY LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
COPYRIGHT 2020 UNINTERRUPTED WRITINGS INC LLC
PEACE, LOVE AND JACKET VIBES!.
RED ROCKS SET LIST
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