Updated: Aug 31, 2020
MY MORNING JACKET SHOWS
(#10 & #9)
LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
What is the elemental entity which separates the usual mind-blowing Jacket show (capable of converting anyone into a lifelong fan) from those 3-4 hour spiritual experiences where the band indoctrinate all-comers within a 50 mile radius into believing rock and roll has never seen a better band?
The quality of performance?
Is it the length of the show?
If the boys kick out the jams?
And how far down the rabbit hole they descend?
All of these are crucial factors...but there's only three things which really separate any Jacket show:
Setting, energy and circumstance...
Throughout their illustrious career, My Morning Jacket have made a point to fully display their extraterrestrial rock and roll wherever, however it fits their fancy:
As long as the fans provide an awe-inspiring setting, they've shown they'll travel to the furthest reaches of their musical fabric, leaving us (and them) hanging by their torn threads before it all comes full circle, weaving their psychedelic tapestry around us until we're ensconced in their magnetic ether.
From 1999 to 2020, they've whittled us willing fans into stardust...and we remain transformed, radiant, pulsating...stoned electric:
10. DENVER NIGHT I 2017 (12/29/17)
1ST BANK CENTER, DENVER, COLORADO
The first night of a three night New Year's Eve stand at 1st Bank Center was the first time I'd ever seen the band at a multiple night engagement, taking my fiancee Chelsea with me along for the adventure to Denver. What a wild ride those three nights were: meeting JohnnyYac, hanging with Ronzo Tiltin and his group of Denver heads, enjoying romantic dinners and bizarre thrift store shopping with Chels...it was all too surreal, although the most impossible part of it all?
I never would've believed MMJ would play their best show on Night I of a NYE stand.
MMJ are built for New Year's Eve, so when they skipped NYE engagements from 2013-2016, even during 2015's Waterfall promotion, their festive-period inactivity shocked every one of their fans.....but when the last three nights of 2017 were booked for 1st Bank Center, the year's hottest and hardest ticket became MMJ's most in-demand concerts of their career (until their 2019 Red Rocks return broke the internet and many wallets).
2017 had been a lean Jacket year: OBH3 leading the way in February, another 4 1/2 months until a sold out albeit short, straight-laced Summer tour of the Midwest and East Coast followed. There were little set list surprises, shorter gigs and an overall lack of energy from the band members, and though the tour started as well as ended wonderfully, fans who traveled were left slightly disappointed.
Disappointed from the Jacket???
Not possible I say, although reading the comments of a vast number of fans who trekked through Summer 2017 with the band, the consensus seems to be: great overall shows, low quality rarities, energy and impetus...so good they were becoming too effortless.
Once the long-rumored 2017 NYE stand was announced, tickets to the band's only extended extravaganza of 2017 sold out quickly, such was the growing hunger for all things Jacket; the true fans knew damn well how experimental the band became at these engagements.
From their past history, MMJ had only done a three night NYE stand at the same venue once, 2006 at the Fillmore, it had been 5 years since the Jacket's last New Year's show @ Agganis Arena, Boston (preceded by a semi 3 night NYE stand at Port Chester's Capitol Theatre back in 2012) and surprisingly, 2017's 1st Bank Center NYE show would only be their 4th NYE show total.
Judging by this blueprint from only two NYE stands, we thought the band might punch out a pair of 2 hour 15 min+ shows before ending with a 3 hour extravaganza to ring in the New Year.
Instead, they gave fans more, delivering 8 hours of joyous, boundless rock and roll over three nights, each show providing astounding moments of divine Jacketship: first night seeing 25 tracks and 150 minutes ("Run Thru" was scratched from Night I and switched to Night II), Night II saw a bizarre collection of 22 songs and 155 minutes on the dot before the final NYE show produced another 2 hours and 50+ conquest for the stars.
Still, the 2 1/2 hours, 24 songs and a guitar solo from night one hit hardest at the time and in retrospect: Many big time fans placed this night high within the top handful of MMJ shows they'd ever seen.
Rocking an unbeatable set list, performance, order, flow and an all-conquering heathen manifestation during the performances of each track (as if the band were playing their last show on earth, not some "warm up night" of a 3 show stand)....the band challenged themselves while treating their fans to a delirious stew of molten MMJ.
I arrived with no expectations outside of "we will have fun....we will party it up...we won't miss a single moment and My Morning Jacket will always deliver the goods"....still, I felt and believed MMJ would start the Night I set with "At Dawn"....it just seemed too perfect for the moment.
My lady and I squeezed into the first ten or so "rows" on the floor and prepared for insanity...and after watching The Revolution's bristling set, we prepared for 2 1/2 hours of magic.
The stage grew dark to the awe-inspiring sounds of Nina Simone's "If I Ruled The World" playing over the PA, providing chills-inducing vibes and the atmosphere to open all three NYE shows in Denver.
The dark masked the band's arrival and the first thing we felt or heard from the members was the first notes of "At Dawn", pulling off a profound magical entrance.
As a dark orange light grew slowly from the stage, Pat Hallahan began beating out the indie rock "When The Levee Breaks" on the tom toms and the crowd went wild, "At Dawn" receiving its first spot on a set list since November 24th 2015 (Beacon Theater).
It was the song I'd longed to see opening a show and the band fulfilled this solemn oath, Jim's vocals soaring like towering tobacco angels, Tom's skyscraping bass and melodic bombs grooving low, Carl's pedal steel transforming into a panoramic Cineplex Odeon of Gram Parson's best acid trip...they were nothing short of charismatic when cloaked in Marc Janowitz's empirical lighting (a true MVP of this magical 2017 New Year's run).
The band built up such a momentum from the final notes of "At Dawn" only to kill the buzz slightly when starting the slowburn of "Lowdown", the only pacing misstep on a 10/10 night.
Though these two tracks follow each other on the At Dawn record, the always amazing "Lowdown" should've been moved a few songs down the set list....though what would soon follow made the sunny "Lowdown" detour feel like a tiny dream.
My Morning Jacket rattled into a ridiculous treasure of a segue: the third straight from the At Dawn album and the 100th performance of "X-Mas Curtain", "It Beats 4 U", "Aluminum Park", "Heartbreakin Man", "Evelyn's Not Real", "Slow Slow Tune", "Outta My System", "Carried Away"....what an outrageous wham bam thank you ma'am phantasamagoria of Jacket goods and services.
For "X-Mas Curtain" , the guys realized the significance of its 100th airing and supplied the ultimate version of the song, Carl wailing away on a Duane Allman odyssey in conjunction with Jim's high bends...we were in an alternate reality of guitar god heaven.
This was the best "X-Mas Curtain" yet....there was a spontaneity about the way in which they kept building the solo again and again, never content to let the song end until it reached the highest maximum. Jim and Carl attempted to imitate this performance at RR2019 and couldn't quite hit the mark...the first time the band extended "X-Mas Curtain" into the stratosphere, Carl & Jim's high-wire / high fret action stole the show.
As has become customary in the opening salvo of many Jacket shows, "X-Mas Curtain" went straight into a fiery "It Beats 4 U" (possibly due to the time "Beats" intro affords Carl to switch axes; one of my dream segues), Carl's tremolo guitars echoing around us wall to wall, Jim's foreboding vocals reaching above and beyond. Tom and Patrick were twisting the riff repeatedly, a rotating pocket swirling around the song's circuital, infinite bass line.
The real kicker for this rendition? Carl's screaming solo, following the notes higher up the neck, kicking on a tethering blanket of delay fraying and decaying at the ends of each note as it disintegrated into the next, the intergalactic nature of "It Beats 4 U" becoming an all-encompassing shadowdream.
Just as one masterpiece ended, another began: Jim slashed the opening riff to one of my favorite rockers "Aluminum Park", a perfect song in the perfect place, building an unassailable momentum from "Curtain" > "Beats" > the Evil Urges standout.
Always winning the war, the rockist stew of Bo's Keith Godchaux / Steinway licks, combined with Jim and Carl's major key power chord Townshend-isms sent us to heaven and beyond, especially when Carl twists and bends out an irreverent solo to finish my favorite live version of the track (besting Waterfront Park 2008).
I turned to my fiancee and just stared at her and shook my head: we were about to encounter rock and roll history...I still couldn't believe the slew of songs MMJ rattled off... yet one of the most in-your-face Jacket shows (post 2012) kept delivering.
Right when Jim played the oriental notes (like he always did before this song), testing out the tuning to his satisfaction, I shouted out "HEARTBREAKIN MAN!"
The first Jacket song on the band's debut record came full force that night, Jim, Bo and Carl's voices exploding into ethereal "ooooh ahhhhh's" as MMJ kept the foot firmly on the gas pedal.
Some pre-2012 takes of "Heartbreakin" never hit that apex: either the intro vocals are missing or the guitars aren't as intense...but our luck was mighty on this night, the chugging Gibsons and breathtaking vocals bringing stoned tears to my eyes, just like Columbus or Capitol Theatre 2012.
Right after Carl's mind melt lead guitar liquification, "Heartbreakin" went straight into Patrick's "Phil Spector bass drum stomp" and any real Jacket fan knew we were receiving our second straight from their debut, "Evelyn's Not Real", a rare track I was lucky to witness at my first show and here once again.
At the end of Jim's final vocal workout on "Evelyn", the Jacket impresario slashed the opening chords of "Slow Slow Tune" out of nowhere, transitioning from the final chord of "Evelyn" with dutiful ease: yet another demonstration of MMJ's dynamic grip.
I am yet to hear that segue again, but rest assured: if "Slow Slow" follows "Evelyn" at any MMJ gig in the future, this exacting, outrageous connection will be used again.
"Slow Slow Tune" grew wings before our eyes, Carl's delay-infused Duesenberg pushing the limits during each guitar break until you felt just like the narrator: drifting off into the desolate abyss of someone else's twilight, far too many years late.
In my first time (of dying 😁) witnessing the track live, I could've cried...in fact, I know I did.
One question at this point in the 25 song setlist: just as we wondered why "X-Mas Curtain" > "It Beats 4 U" shows up at countless shows (Masonic 2015, RR2012, etc) we also grew curious about other tracks: WHY is "Outta My System" almost always in the same setlist as "Evelyn's Not Real"(8/3/19, 12/29/17, 12/27/12, 8/2/2012, 8/17/12, 8/26/12 to name only a few)???
As if both songs had been cryogenically frozen together, always meant to be heard back to back or at least in the same rocking section of many shows, "Evelyn" and "System" were there together again.
On this night, "Outta My System" becomes a rabid horse with no name, a chugga-chugga festival based around the most violent G chord ever plundered by man, Jim extending the song on his own terms for an extra minute of carnal jammage featuring his best scat vocals.
Jim laughing at the line "they told me not to smoke drugs, said 'I wouldn't listen', never thought I'd get caught and wind up in prison" as continuous weed smoke billowed towards the singer.
Headbanging by a rambunctious, enthusiastic Carl on the pedal steel and Tom's reckoning bass bombs punctuated the irreverent version, Jim stomping out every riff from his guitar.
Just as soon as it began, "System" ended and left behind remnants of familiar Les Paul arpeggios coming off Blackie, Carl's main axe. Leading into his own "Carried Away", Carl and Jim forged a supersonic bond near the middle of the stage, gearing up for some major fireworks; my first time witnessing the marvelous Broemel solo excursion would be an unforgettable experience:
All in attendance struck the motherload, this stunner being the best "Carried Away" My Morning Jacket have performed thus far. I couldn't believe my accosted senses as Carl and Jim proceeded to head-bang only a centimeter from each other as their Gibson guitars sang out the lead harmony line like snarling, steambreathing dragons.
Given the overall scope of this version's magic, for me it overtakes 2012 Capitol Theatre as the most scorching, cinematic and heroic version of Broemel's solo wonder...a song My Morning Jacket should play more often.
As the amplifiers still vibrated, Jim's delay looping, Patrick began the thundering drums to "Smokin From Shootin" pumping the skins as Jim whacked the strings to begin the penultimate Evil Urges totem.
This rendition seemed to build more gracefully than others, climbing through vistas of the chorus, then rising higher with every Jim cry or crashing piano from Bo, the rugged, driving bass from Tom and Patrick's athletic sultanism all wrapped in a ribbon of Carl's Americana superhighway, courtesy of his pedal steel.
As the song drew to a sexual cacophony, Jim's guitar continued unabated, bending the main riff on his octave pedal before shredding into uncharted waters for 2 minutes, exploring the submachine gun warfare of his hollow-body Gibson and Boss OC-2 pedal.
After the final squalor of Jim's feedback-laden mindmelt dissipated in delay pedal looping, the band finally let the crowd and their five buzzing Greek gawd minds take a breather.
Jim talked to us all before an autumnal "Hopefully", sounding like a Bryter Lyter outtake more than an At Dawn standout (Carl beautifully added shades of violin bow over his guitar, ala Jimmy Page).
He mused about his hero Prince dubbing him "the greatest musician in the universe" and thanked the Revolution for opening the show, calling their participation an "honor", obviously intent on showing the musical genius's family just what kinda band they really are.
"We are so honored and thrilled to have you here on night one of three as we countdown to New Year's Eve.....to 2018. 2017 has been fun, I've had some good times, but it has been fuuuucked. I'm ready for some fresh energy! We're gonna have a great time! Thank you, we love you!"
After the rare Jim interaction, the skyline guitars of "Thin Line" churned the dark chorus's tropical breeze, proving what a cool song this 2009 throwback really is. The dreamland track sent R&B chills up and down our spines, the Waterfall track receiving one of its most spirited airings yet.
Patrick then scooped the hi-hats and snapped into "Golden", the It Still Moves blessing:
Ever since they first extended the 4 1/2 minute nugget into 6 ruminating minutes, the track's metamorphosis as a Bo Koster and Jim James duet was complete....and better for it: locked in spiritual bliss, the elegant sadness of Bo's notes during the extended section rode alongside Jim's mystifying calls from the back roads of a dark Kentucky night...they took us there and over the hills toward "Moonlight Mile" territory.
A ghostly "Golden" it was...
Now the show had slowed down, I wondered to my lady where MMJ would go from here...they could play anything....it was an unbelievable feeling knowing unexpected magic would be served up by the five greatest musicians of our generation, one grateful tune after another.
What would come next would be all about transformation, two of the Jacket's most renowned medleys "War Begun" > "I Will Sing You Songs" and "O Is The One That Is Real" > " What a Wonderful Man" in a consecutive burst.
Aside from holding major power individually, in combination these four songs captured many of the band's most cherished eras and moods, tied musically and thematically...a dose of paralyzing nostalgia could be sensed once each segue landed.
What was at first menacing turned downright apocalyptic by the time Jim's ravaging Flying V masterclass assumed control of "War Begun", dictating its path completely on this night.
To seal this show as an apex in MMJ guitar playing, once again Carl joins Jim's lead lines in harmonic orgasm, Patrick's roundhouse fills (from bits of snare shrapnel all the way to the floor tom and back) wound within his galloping, riding right foot holding the secret groove.
On this night, "War Begun" grooved and morphed before collapsing beautifully into the arms of "I Will Sing You Songs". Immediately bathing us in shimmering twilight, Jim's phasing chord strikes lying naked amidst Carl's falling Bigbsy tremolo swoons.
No matter how fantastic any one member of My Morning Jacket performed on 12/29/2017, this was a night devoted to the twin guitar Jackethood of Carl Broemel and Jim James.
Just as before, these lords of 6 string sorcery painted a 3D cosmos throughout "I Will Sing You Songs", letting the song breathe, sustain and build in suspended animation nearly as long as the definitive version found on Okonokos, ending in a climax of phasing cymbals and sugarblue Janowitz light masking the stage in hushed silhouette.
Somehow only seconds after this ending, Pat immediately ushered in "O Is The One". Using a tethering delay from Jim floating in the atmosphere as a desolate backdrop, Pat stepped a few times casually on the bass drum before a quick snap of the snare....
On 12/29, the group jived "O Is The One" towards swimming disco ball lunacy, hell bent for Members Only leather. Among the oddest, coolest and most feverish Jacket numbers of all, "O Is The One" blossomed from Okonokos's raging rendition, known as a true fan favorite and rarity at this juncture of its evolution.
MMJ's guitar tones here aren't so spicy and overdriven until much later in the song, giving the Songs:Ohia and Sweatbees EP rocker a dance groove and shuffling swing...of course, by the time Jim is courageously belting out "the radio it plays", all hell has broken loose.
The ending stomp arrives though Pat hits the crash cymbal four extra times in time to the guitars and then bam, we're off down the rabbithole of jet-pack assisted power chords, the intro to "What a Wonderful Man" flies seamlessly toward the horizon.
But what happened next would blow my mind: a rip-roaring carbon copy of MMJ's souped up 2005-2006 era cover of Bob Dylan's "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You", one of my favorite covers of the band's catalog...
The energy explodes from this song, cranking amps, Carl's delay absorbed Les Paul delivering the Rolling Thunder Revue-inspired lead lines, the way Jim screams "I can hear that lonesome whistle blowing!" as MMJ perfectly time the stop-start dynamics, Patrick's two stick fills building into the crescendo of power chords...I was in absolute heaven.
I didn't think I would ever get the chance to see this cover, yet here it was in all its ragged glory.....where is my mind?
Next was another favorite, the eternally gorgeous and extreme rarity "Knot Comes Loose" receiving its 25th total performance.
Bo's piano took over, mustering a pure, woodsy sound against the grain of Jim's joyous vocals; the interplay between Carl's pedal steel, Bo's piano and Jim's acoustic felt so exacting and calculating the band sent us straight back to the Catskill Mountains where the song was first born.
Just as the first two tracks from At Dawn opened the show, the main set's tectonic glory closed with the final two tracks off Z...a creeping beat rising behind the ease of "Knot" let us know "Dondante" was nigh at hand, shrill squeals of recognition from the die hards among the crowd greeting its labrynthian outer darkness.
12/29's "Dondante" rode a 29 minute journey through an extended Jim workout throughout the verses, the gang sustaining an ominous tension until the sudden catatonic release of the chorus; once the solo began, Jim guided his bandmates through cyborg metal riffs, cocktails of octave pedal fuzz locked into Bo "welcoming the machine" with his Fender Rhodes bleeps and bloops bubbling and swirling in time like psychedelic blood.
I'm glad Chels and I moved from our close views on the floor before "Knot Comes Loose", watching "Dondante" from the 15th row seats on Jim's side, taking in every second of the incendiary jam, the longest "Dondante" ever up to that point.
The athletic tilt-a-whirl from both Jim and Carl's guitars gave way to an atmospheric odyssey once Carl picked up his sax, ushering another 7 minutes of jazz-conquest, building into a colossal death circus anchored by Patrick's rotisserie drum fills (from this new vantage point, I witnessed mega MMJ fan Wyatt Torvik headbanging as if he were plagued by a tortoise living inside his skull) ...finally, Carl's sax sprayed the main theme again...the audience glossed over in blissful oblivion after a near 30 minute frenzy through what many consider MMJ's best moment.
After recovering pieces of my shattered skull from the floor, Patrick's phaser-infected cymbals splashed as the last sounds of "Dondante" decayed into the ether...leaving all in attendance shaken....in the resulting darkness, MMJ disappeared from view, huddled backstage.
Despite the main set lasting 2 hours and 5 minutes, it felt much longer (and in a good way); the Jacket were already outlasting the length of many previous Night I's from the past, attempting to litter the set-list with as many songs as possible.
...after a 5 minute break, they returned for the encores.
With "Run Thru" remaining on the set list, MMJ crossed it off to save some energy for Night II (when "Run Thru" would receive a delicious airing), opening this final stand to the Nintendo sounds of "Believe".
Never a big favorite of mine, The Waterfall lead track works here when jettisoned full of "Ride My See-Saw"-esque propulsion, Jim and Carl's Gibsons buzzing right into the Bowie hit "Rebel Rebel", only the third ever appearance at a My Morning Jacket concert and first since 2017's OBH3 festival.
What makes a Jacket cover so endlessly cool?
Their attention to detail: even Mick Ronson's thick 6th string bends from the Diamond Dogs highlight remain at the beginning of each chorus, Carl pulling the note down just as Ronson does: spine-tingling!
As if they realized the curfew would only grant one more song (the cut out "Run Thru" encore bringing the stupid time limit to their attention), Bo breathlessly launched into the keyboard intro to "Anytime", the first time I would get to witness one of my favorite Jacket masterpieces close a show.
While it was a fast, furious and nearly rushed version of the emotive Z epic, Jim's Grade A vocals tore a hole through the sky when singing "cause anytime's a good time to move on...woah oh oh ohhhh!" as if he were calling from the depths of a forsaken ocean; The audience chanted every word along with their favorite band...fans and artist welded together in a symbiotic catharsis...we needed this. As Carl's scathing guitar sang sweet impossibilities, the show reached its fiery climax, the band waving before they left the stage, the entire band (save for business-like Carl) grinning ear to ear, knowing the job may have only been 1/3 done, but what a hell of a start.
Although 12/29-12/31 Denver was bitterly cold outside, My Morning Jacket's musical bonfire warmed their fans beyond measure on 12/29, all to the festive soundtrack of fiery band chemistry, a nonstop twin-guitar assault, one of this author's personal top Jacket covers and arguably one of MMJ's most awe-inspiring, crowd-pleasing and innovative set lists...BUT the reason 12/29 must take its place on the Top 10 Jacket shows of all time.
It's all about those cerebral cortex-shattering performances....yes, I picked this show because I'm a little bias: like many of you, I was there.
Still, when it comes to an uninterrupted presentation of My Morning Jacket's musical origami, 12/29/17 is definitely a Top 10 Jacket show...and many fans would echo these sentiments.
Meanwhile, this show remains a firm fan favorite due to the amount of quality songs the band were able to call upon, mixing "Aluminum Park" alongside "It Beats 4 U", "Knot Comes Loose" > "Dondante, "Smokin For Shootin" joining "Hopefully"...MMJ never let up.
In 2 1/2 hours, MMJ opened with "At Dawn", busted out a "Dondante" behemoth possessing a 27 minute / second longest ever / "Dazed & Confused" (circa 1975) flavor, issued a "War Begun" > "I Will Sing You Songs" medley straight into the "O Is The One" > "Wonderful Man" two-fer (only time they've done that in one long go and only 2nd show to have all four songs as medleys (8/2/2019), Dylan's "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You" hadn't been done since 2013 and only the 9th total time, "Evelyn's Not Real" and "Knot Comes Loose" appearing together for only the second time ever (9/1/15), "At Dawn", "Hopefully" and "Knot Comes Loose" joined for only the third instance (12/29/06 & 9/12/15), the first time "Aluminum Park", "At Dawn", "Knot" and "Evelyn" were played since the iconic Beacon Theater shows in November 2015, the 100th & greatest airing of "X-mas Curtain", best version of "Carried Away" ever....this show is pushed even higher on the list due to the strength of 12/30/17 and the just-under-3 hour extravaganza on New Year's Eve....regardless of either 12/30 or 12/31's magic, 12/29 illustrated something significant from this band, an unspoken aim for the galaxy after 4 1/2 months out....and after watching it all unfold over three glorious nights wrapped next to the most beautiful woman in the world, this first night always held the highest power....
BEST PERFORMANCE: 27 minute "Dondante", 100th and greatest version of "Xmas Curtain", the definitive display of Carl's "Carried Away" UNIQUE ODDITY: Dylan's riproaring "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You" first time since 2013 and only third time since 2005, and Bowie's "Rebel Rebel" RARE SONGS PLAYED: "At Dawn", "Evelyn's Not Real" and "Knot Comes Loose" first played since 2015
9. OBH4 NIGHT II (3/3/2018)
PUNTA CANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Although OBH4 will always be remembered as the time My Morning Jacket played a trio of 3 hour shows in 4 nights, capturing every song in their studio repertoire and debuting Circuital and The Waterfall in full for the first time, it will mostly be remembered among MMJ's greatest ever stands...however, the middle of three nights at OBH4 was where the magic lies: It Still Moves and Z played back to back, with an encore containing the (FINALLY) full version of "Cobra" in all its bizarre, heathen-dream glory????
If you discovered MMJ during the years 2003-2005, you may never find a better (post-2005) set-list or combination of tracks than 3/3/2018...other than the magic of Okonokos, It doesn't get any better for a 2003-2005-rooted fan than 3/3/2018.
In the aftermath of MMJ's triumphant New Year's Eve shows in Denver (another historically great Jacket stand), every fan anticipated an epic OBH4. Everyone knew the band would put on a trio of devastating shows...but no fan saw the blissful wonder of each studio record played in full sequential order...
The first night at that year's OBH would blow everyone's minds once "Heartbreakin Man" curiously went into "They Ran": what was going on here?
Where have we heard / seen these two paired together before?
MMJ always began a set hitting you over the head with four or even five intense songs in a row (or four slow songs if they're in the quieter mindset)...however, going from "Heartbreakin Man" into "They Ran" was a segue we'd never seen...except for one place: The Tennessee Fire studio album.
Could it be???
Would OBH4 become Terminal 5 Redux?
Once we heard "The Bear", followed by one of the band's rarest tracks "Nashville To Kentucky", we knew what was upon us and we strapped ourselves in accordingly...out of Terminal 5's ashes came a run which would rival and potentially top those five nights in NYC:
Over 5 nights in October 2010, My Morning Jacket put on a slew of special gigs, each delivering one of their five albums in full, including the transmission of past experience: from era-focused set design themes or props, even cool intro and outro tapes made from each album's hidden / instrumental tracks....Terminal 5 was designed to make the Jacket discography more accessible than ever before;
After a main set featuring the chosen night's studio album, MMJ poured on an hour of outrageous encore choices, B-sides, uber-rarities and ridiculous covers, all songs pertaining to the timeframe in which the album was recorded.
As great as some of those shows were (judging by YouTube videos), the band's recordings / footage from those five nights have never seen the light of day, mostly due to "dissatisfaction" from the band concerning the performances and recordings (according to long-time FOH Sound Man / Live Recording Producer, Mixer & Archivist Ryan Pickett).
So, flash-forward to January 2018:
With a year-long hiatus approaching and three nights at Punta Cana, Mexico beckoning, the Jacket gang devised a plan to redo Terminal 5.
March 2nd would see The Tennessee Fire played in full followed by At Dawn, the second night would unveil It Still Moves and Z, and lastly, the final three MMJ records (including two the band had never played live in sequential order) all left for a marathon 3 1/2 hour final night, Evil Urges, Circuital and The Waterfall.
The task was a mighty one...try and play "If It Smashes Down" on guitar while singing, let alone trying to remember those complex lyrics with "I Needed It Most" coming right after; hope and pray the All Things Must Pass-levitation of "If All Else Fails" transmits well on stage, attempt to segue "Heartbreakin Man" into "They Ran" without killing the show only 2 songs in...try singing such varied insanity as "Wordless Chorus", "Steam Engine", 'Dondante", "Knot Comes Loose", "Into The Woods", "Rollin Back", "Cobra" and "Gideon" all in the same night...
This was an epic undertaking, and though mymorningjacketfans.com will delve into the making of OBH4 further in its own piece, we primarily focus on 3/3/2018 as part of the 10 Greatest Jacket shows of all time.
It's excruciating work placing any Jacket show on any list...it's so hard to compare or contrast, but those three key elements of setting, energy and circumstance were all captured in a bottle on 3/3/2018 and supercharged with a shot of lightning injection.
Performance-levels from 3/3/2018 show the band in fine fettle, able to relax and take in each song as it came (rather than the final night's slightly rushed vibe). After all, It Still Moves and Z are the band's most beloved albums...MMJ's Daydream Nation and Zeppelin IV...there was a heap of pressure, especially with nearly every fan expecting the two masterpieces back to back after the first night's two-fer.
They would get their wish...MMJ nirvana was at hand.
Carl soars, shreds and sizzles with Les Paul alchemy, traversing the gauntlet of his greatest guitar solos all in one night ("Mahgeeta", "OBH", "Lay Low", "Steam Engine", "Masterplan", "It Beats 4 U");
Bo advertises himself as a musical machine (perfectly capturing the Danny Cash sound on "Just One Thing", crossing the Worrell / Wright threshold during the rippling keys of "Steam Engine" and "Dondante", blazing some righteous organ on "Easy Morning Rebel", going Vanessa Carlton on our ass during the brand-new intro of "What a Wonderful Man", and when hearing Z straight through, you begin to realize My Morning Jacket wouldn't have been able to tackle Z without Bo);
The orgasmic tandem of Patrick Hallahan and "Two Tone Tommy" Tom Blankenship form a wrecking crew rhythm section, showcasing their greatest flexibility during the night's mix of ISM, Z and "Cobra", displaying their tightest and most outrageous grooves ("It Beats 4 U", "Cobra", "Off The Record", "Dondante", "Easy Morning Rebel"); yet it must be declared, Jim's vocals take over this night, weathering the climate changes which always affect the voice and the draining toll from 3/2/18's 2 hour and 45 minute conquest.
Jim James is the Michael Jordan / Joe Burrow love-child of rock and roll...the man can do no wrong...from his songwriting to his always improving guitar work (which has seen him rise from singer / rhythm guitar tags to being viewed as an axe-slinging equal of Carl's by Rolling Stone magazine), Jim's reverb-caked vocals (especially on ISM and Z) were always the ethereal, home-made gateway inside the Jacket's braintrust. Now unmasked and in the forefront, Jim's voice has ascended to the point of musical Mt. Rushmore.
As they came out to the "It Beats 4 U" intro tape from those late 2006 early 2007 shows, an epic feeling surrounded the crowd and stage....this was going to be something profoundly special...
When Jim thrashed into "Mahgeeta" dry, ala Okonokos (without the delay-drenched "Tropics"y intro he's been using since the mid 2000s) a retro vibe already coated the presentation seconds in...this was how Jim did the intro from 2004-2010 for the most part. After listening and seeing Jim going hardcore on even the smallest details, I felt the band were a bunch of celebratory, progressive nostalgia on 3/3/18...perfectly at ease with these songs after years of moulding them back and forth onstage.
That vibe echoed all the way down into the way they moved, the way they played the songs, even the intro and outro tapes were synced to their proper nostalgia placement....maybe Jim wasn't jumping into the drums, but he was far more animated than he'd been in a while at that time (don't have to tell you Jacket fans, but this is due to Jim's past back surgeries and injuries, all in the name of delivering the gospel of MMJ).
For some newer Jacket fans, the entire "albums in order" / past reverence was lost on them...they wondered why "OBH" was being played only five songs into the show...or where's "Victory Dance" what's this slow stuff?
Despite a section of some "fans" proving incapable of shutting the fuck up, oblivious, drunken fools chattering & screaming over "One In The Same", "Into The Woods" and "Knot Comes Loose", Jim James' stirring vocals glove-slapped them back into silence.
Still, rude sections of the crowd remain on tape talking over Jim singing "One In The Same" for the first time in 8 years...for time and all eternity (the soundboards released through nugs.net remedy this issue, although the audience tapes paint a dispiriting picture of some in attendance, a notch on their festival belts more than an experience to take in, an island-themed Burning Man...still, this small element was overran by the overwhelming power and love of the best Jacket fans in the world who took the crowd over in festive Jackethood).
If you're a Jacket fiend, obsessive or junkie, the intro and outro tapes alone gave you a hard-on, but when you listen to the detail MMJ put into each and every performance from their two most celebrated albums, ala the sax-less "Steam" with the re-institution of Pat's drum solo, you realize they were coming full circle as a group.
With an uncertain future, My Morning Jacket raged through every rocker on the docket, "Masterplan" and "Dancefloors" receiving more propulsion and intensity than they'd been adorned with in years, boosting these songs to a different atmosphere altogether, all while honoring the menacing intent of the former and the barrelhouse boogie of the latter's original recordings;
A ghostly "I Will Sing You Songs" in all its full, 9 1/2 minute glory receives a haunting, destitute edition here, Jim's vocals cascading in shimmering, Pacific highway twilight, just as Carl's guitar begins to take its spectral atmospherics into the heavens, exploding in catharsis alongside Jim's Flying V, married together in the song's final, wondrous riff.
One of the best ever versions...doesn't beat Okonokos, but it's damn close.
Every jam was kicked in the ass with a steel-toe boot, including a downright savage 22 minute "Dondante" becoming one of the most easily-listenable versions of the song.
First, Jim's octave pedal ramblings become focused and refined, supplying a Sabbath-ian riff which the band plays around with and morphs over the course of their improv, Bo's electric piano fluttering in and out, leading the charge and then taking a back-seat.... tempos rising and climbing...
After the greatest band in the world plays their two greatest studio records back to back, finishing with a 22 minute "Dondante"...what comes after???
You play the greatest Jacket track not on a Jacket record:
"Cobra"...and you don't just play a 5 minute "all-first section" version...no you don't just stop after the "headbangin mid-section"....no you don't end after a little rendition of the final riff (as can be heard in San Francisco 2011)....NO....YOU PLAY THE WHOLE FUCKIN THING.
Speaking to the some of the crowd's intriguing relative newbieness, once the first three sections of "Cobra" ended, many newer fans thought:
A) "Cobra" was over and
B) What is this new song they're playing now?
This version of "Cobra" isn't just sacrosanct due to its full length airing of the song's magical last half, it's also the best all-around edition of "Cobra" juiciness, delivering the funk, the bump and the continual four on the floor stomp of Patrick for 5 minutes; then came one of the longest head banging sections ever, Carl's wah-wah lifting the buzz-saw grind to a visceral menace; this mid-section became rampant, fuzz boxes rammed to a potent maximum, delivering some of MMJ's heaviest ever rock and roll. Each amp all the way up to 11, Carl and Jim's heavy 6 string plundering reached action-packed levels so intense even director John Woo vomited in attendance.
Next came the "Makisupa Policeman" section as I call it, longer than normal and lengthened to 3 1/2 minutes: "I know somebody, yes I know someone, who likes to wait, likes to wait for the policeman to come, I know somebody yes I know them well and I'm aware of the thought they call ringin' the bell..." sometimes this song could make a baked listener feel paranoid, ohhh it was funny. Tom's licorice bass is just whipping the section's winding riff around and around, Jim and Carl echoing each other in carnal reggae delight, the song's Jamaican black metal now breaking down beautifully...is this where matters stopped?
I thought it would be, but then...
The band creatively came up with a perfect live rendition of the dark, mysterious "Cobra" segues from the studio version, building and pulsating from Bo's keys...this was an ominous, awesome sound derived straight from Bo's electric piano and Patrick's loose march...yet this was all Bo, the delay-infected Fender Rhodes providing a Floydian, pulsating sound which wrapped around us all, whether in attendance or any time you play the recordings, Bo creates a sound so truly definitive it can't be touched...a psychedelic waterfall forever flowing into...
The long-awaited finale for MMJ obsessives....a section of music the band had never played live and many die-hard Jacket fans themselves had never heard....the second to last chunk of the "Cobra" suite...the section which brought tears to the eyes of Jacket fans for nearly 16 years before ever hearing Jim and the band perform it live:
"Why do my toes always feel so cold? How come, how come how coooooooome?" There's something truly scary about how beautiful this live rendition is, Jim using his Barney Kessel guitar to electrify the studio version's acoustic part, the black towel over his hair concealing half or most of his face, his vocals rising ever higher than I've heard them go for some time, hitting every breathtaking note (Carl's voice rising so high I wonder if his larynx or testicles were okay after).
We just wanted to hear the band finally try this section of music from some obscure 20 minute experiment on an EP released in 2002...we didn't expect perfection...but perfection was what we got from My Morning Jacket...and what else should we have expected from the band who continually raises the bar?
The full "Cobra" delivered on every impossible level: every guitar stroke and chord rooted to perfection, every effects pedal choice calculated to a science, the song's difficult changes mastered by a band so adventurous they couldn't help but attempt the impossible.
After a 2 hour and 45 minute set blasting their two greatest albums back to back, My Morning Jacket somehow had the juice to perform their most ambitiously difficult song and one which they'd never played live in full (no less than two different guitar changes needed for both Jim and Carl)...and they did it in their sleep.
When taken in totality, 3/3/2018 must be in a Top 10 Jacket shows list, it must...there are so many to choose from, but which show has this combination of tracks, delivered with such calibrated gusto, in this celebratory fashion, with many of the band's most devoted followers in attendance and watching live through various feeds around the world, that night 3/3, with Jim's ending jokes about "Eric Mayer's personal guarantee that this stage will be open all night long for a DJ set from Patrick Hallahan and David Givan, come out and dance, come out and dance with us! They already said they'll keep the stage open all night long to the sounds of Patrick Hallahan and David Stephen Givan-Stephens!" all as the final, amazing riff from "Cobra" provided a near 5 minute jam at the end, one last blissful intoxicating moment from a band full of them.
"We love you! We love you so much!" Jim's last words were that night, as the final notes of "Cobra" finally ended, now 20 minutes and some odd seconds in length, Patrick's cymbal caresses shadowing the ending in divine dark diamond tourism.
So many bands are too afraid to take even one risk in a set-list, yet in a 2 hour 40 minute show already packed full of MMJ's most eagerly anticipated songs and a rash of ultra-rarely played tracks, Carl, Tom, Pat, Bo and Jim came out from the encore break and delivered a stunning debut of the full "Cobra" a track known for infamously experimental sections and for never receiving a complete airing....until now.
My Morning Jacket pulled it off...a 20 minute legacyfucker to battle the most intimidating gods of rock and roll's history, Zeppelin, Sabbath, Floyd, Stones, Stooges, Funkadelic...after the 3 hours & 3 minutes of savage rock and roll displayed on 3/3/2018, MMJ put themselves right in line next to the greatest to ever play on a concert stage.
BEST PERFORMANCE: "Cobra", "I Will Sing You Songs", "Steam Engine" (w/ Pat solo),
"Knot Comes Loose", 22 minute "Dondante", "Just One Thing"
UNIQUE ODDITY: The first time the full length "Cobra" was ever played, only second time Z and It Still Moves were played in sequential order. Very rarely played tracks such as "Into The Woods", "One In The Same", "Just One Thing", "Knot Comes Loose" and "Rollin Back" all receive a mandatory airing on this night.
8. RED ROCKS 2016
(BOTH NIGHTS: MAY 28TH & 29TH 2016) RED ROCKS, MORRISON COLORADO
How on earth can you only choose one of these incendiary nights for this list? We had to cheat...at first we were locked in on the 28th, but due to the 29th also possessing an unstoppable slew of gorgeous encores, as well as both nights seeing the return of former Jacket guitarist Johnny Quaid to the Jacket stage (first time since Forecastle 2015), we had to pick both. Any show where Johnny appears onstage alongside his former bandmates is a memorable occasion, however for his first ever time on the Red Rocks stage, he didn't just join in for his familiar set of It Still Moves or At Dawn era favorites: What made RR2016 a masterpiece was Johnny's inclusion on newer material, assisting reggae guitar on "Wordless Chorus" and the Jacket's transcendent 2016-17 era cover of "Purple Rain" and Dylan's "Knocking on Heaven's Door".
There was a party vibe at these two gigs, the band's last at Red Rocks for over 3 years (August 2019): not only were they releasing the It Still Moves reissue on the same day as the first night, My Morning Jacket had been slaying dragons on the road, desecrating one random theater after another as they booked mini sets of dates throughout the Spring (trying to stay active whilst still settling back after 2015's marathon). Having Johnny Quaid in tow brought a large amount of camaraderie, love and appreciation for the band's roots as well as their future, with both Carl and Johnny becoming fast friends (the two are head-banging so dangerously close to each other you think an accident knocking heads is imminent...luckily, it never happens).
Also, Carl's long-haired son could be seen waiting in the wings, watching his father light an arena full of true music fans aflame with his Les Paul scorching rock and roll citadel...will Carl's son become the future third guitarist in MMJ???
Never before had the band attempted consecutive 3 hour shows during one stand at the same arena...but the time for adventure was now:
Patrick couldn't stop grinning, Tom was enjoying life as a BASSGAWD and family man, and Bo was a frenzied musician who's path to live gigs with Ray LaMontagne and Roger fuckin Waters was beyod secure; even Jim's back was feeling slightly more rested and the group were also testing a new song, the twin guitar bubblegum pop of "Throwback" while breaking out irresistible new cover tunes which challenged as much as invigorated the Jacket. But there was also the spectre of death shrouding the band: heroes like Prince, Bowie, Glenn Frey, Robin Williams, Chris Cornell...they were dying at an alarming and disturbing rate...and the band tapped into the spooky overtones through the reincarnation of these artists' songs: The recent passing of Prince bothered the mega-fans within the band to the point they needed to honor his music, songs they'd been too terrified to touch for years. They'd only attempted "I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man" before the Spring 2016 tour, but in the wake of Prince's passing, MMJ covered 4 new Prince tracks by the end of May, the two nights at Red Rocks featuring the only performance of "Take Me With U" and one of the band's most emotional renditions of "Purple Rain".
"Take Me With U" received a juicy live debut (and while only played one time, "Take Me With U" still remains one of the band's greatest covers), "Purple Rain" had just been newly added to the Jacket's special event rotation and became better with each performance, The Eagles' "Peaceful Easy Feeling" was played for the first time since a one-off in The Netherlands back in 2000, Carl supplying the lonesome Rosewood Telecaster bends which cannoned off the boulders at Red Rocks like an intrepid ghost, salutations from another spacial plane...each note for Glenn Frey... RR2016 didn't just demonstrate scintillating covers, Pat Myers' glorious audience footage captures quite possibly the greatest versions of "Picture Of You" and "Masterplan" from the wondrous first night, both containing some of Jim and Carl's greatest guitar work (Denver 12/30/17 is also close for both songs).
The second night's "War Begun" into "I Will Sing You Songs" remains yet another feverburn here, ascending from Jim's venomous soloing throughout "War" into the solemn, orbital mysticism of "Songs". For die hard fans, that run from the 28th encompassing "Just One Thing", "Picture of You" (both receiving their Red Rocks debuts) "Steam Engine" & "Knockin On Heaven's Door" (both with Johnny) folding into a devastating "Strangulation!" is as satisfying as it can get for a Jacket fan, delivering their ethereal "backwoods of Mars" intensity coupled with a rabbit hole trip down through the deepest depths of the band's most lonesome tracks, one after another within the cavernous red walls...the birth canal...
The RR2016 version of "Strangulation!" is particularly fantastic, showing a scary good performance capable of shaking every bone in one's body, especially when Carl goes for the home run hits on the slide, swinging a long lasso of mercurial Duane Allman bliss straight through us...then ramming home the realities of the dark track when he hits those lower notes...make no mistake, Carl's slide playing is disgustingly underrated.
MMJ filled each night's 3 hour show with warhorses, slaying "Victory Dance" as an opener with its pit and the pendulum subwoofery, issuing one of the more bombastic "Lay Low"s ever, "Touch Me II" taking on a Red Rider metamorphosis (a jam I wish never ended), special moments like the 9 minute cover of The Commodores' "Easy" during the encores, featuring Jim leading a wave-inducing sing-a-long (the first time since 2000), Bo's arresting piano running the show with emotional power;