Jim James Takes Terminal 5 to Church on Sunday NightNovember 21st, 2016
Jim James – Terminal 5 – November 20, 2016
We sometimes elevate our favorite musicians, overestimating their power to that of “spirit guide” as opposed to “just great at making music.” But sometimes that pedestal feels warranted. Last year around this same exact time, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James led the Beacon Theatre crowd in a moment of silence for victims of the Paris rock-club shooting that was as deep and meaningful as any I’ve witnessed. James was back in town, appropriately on a Sunday, playing with his solo band at Terminal 5 and in a much more understated way, was equally as moving. Halfway through the set, he spoke of the rally he attended at Adam Yauch Park and urged everyone in the crowd, really everywhere to “come together.” But beyond that, there was a spiritual feeling to the whole show, a message of, as he said, “Peace, love and understanding” in the music.
After a lengthy instrumental introduction, James and his band—two drummers, keyboards, guitar and bass—opened with “Hide in Plain Sight,” his vocals worked through some effects to give a voice-of-God sound basked in blues and purples. The stage was filled with sets of three LEDs that often gave an almost votive-candle look to the room, as James, microphone in hand, ranged from one side of the stage, like a preacher, often closer to talking than singing. The start of the show felt simultaneously subdued and groovy, heavy on synth-and-drum funkiness on “Know Til Now” and “In the Moment.” James’s guitar waited on a stand at the front of the stage, a sacrificial offering awaiting its fate, and when he finally grabbed it, like on “The World’s Smiling Now” and “We Ain’t Getting Any Younger,” the pensive building to raging, two guitars bouncing between two drums, the mood in the room was fiery.
In between, there were more instrumental bridges, keyboard grooves as group meditations. The show ended appropriately with one of these, James leaving the stage after “Eternally Even,” the title track from his newest album, the band following one by one as ethereal melodies lingered in the room. The encore seemed to sum up James’s brand of spirituality as he sang songs from his other side projects, including the Monsters of Folk’s “Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)” and “Down on the Bottom” (“No place to go but up”) from the New Basement Tapes. The night ended with “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.),” another slow build, each verse taking on more emotional weight until another explosion of guitar, the lights flickering through a pastel rainbow and the lyric “the power’s going out” taking on multiple meanings in its repetition. When the lights came on and the church of Jim James turned back into Terminal 5, the mood did not disappear, and the crowd filed out of the room to John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.” —A. Stein | @Neddyo
Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com