My Morning Jacket – the Capitol Theatre – December 27, 2012
Last night was a bring-your-own-seat-belt kind of affair as My Morning Jacket played a thrill-ride roller coaster, the first of three sold-out shows at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester. Before the main event began, though, Deer Tick treated the crowd to an opening set that felt more like a second headliner. With their keyboardist “on a plane,” the Providence, R.I., band coalesced in quartet form, tight and rocking and totally polished. The set was an open-the-next-beer-before-finishing-the-last kind, constantly propelling through songs like “The Bump” and “Main Street” before exploding with a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” the audience singing along, and finally closing with “Born at Zero.”
With that, the stage was reset and MMJ came out loud, frenetic and intense from the get-go. The superlative light show at the Cap includes lifelike projections on the venue’s walls, which can suggest an alternate reality for those inside. The music dutifully provided an otherworldly soundtrack: When the walls showed a spooky, psychedelic, come-to-life forest, “Outta My System” delved deep into a dark guitar jam and later, the walls literally went to steam as the band chugged through “Steam Engine.” Throughout there were plenty of wonderfully disassociated moments—jams in stretched-out intros or outros or just standing alone as heady instrumental moments between songs. Jacket classics like “The Way That He Sings” and “Off the Record” were glued together with blistering ad hoc guitar riffs, ambient-noise jams and techno-tinged grooves.
The band has promised no repeats for this three-night run, providing some free-form fun in the set list, which was up and down while maintaining a glorious MMJ intensity all the while. Slower songs like the red-lit “Strangulation” seemed to build to heavy hitter at a perfect pace and eventually segued into a mallet-to-the-head “Smokin’ from Shootin’.” A late-set take on Erykah Badu’s “Tyrone” was a highlight. Here, the walls seemed to go to oil slick, shimmering alive with liquid rainbow colors while the band slow-burned a long, groovy space jam to match.
The set peaked more than 100 minutes in with a monster feedback jam that fed into a loop-de-loop “Mahgeetah.” Still, plenty of track remained for Jim James and Co. as they came out and did a mini-set encore that encapsulated the energy of the show with another 40 minutes of music that included a quieter acoustic-guitar section highlighted by a solo version of “Bermuda Highway,” James ensconced in spotlight, his voice carrying the room. As the night came to a close, the walls went spacey, stars flying by at unnatural speeds as MMJ went into an intergalactic “Gideon.” The song built to yet another climax, entire galaxies floating by the audience. There were only a few questions to be answered: Were we returning to terra firma after a cosmic journey or had we finally left the atmosphere? And more important: Was your seat belt still buckled? —A. Stein