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.
My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James (below, covering Mazzy Star’s “Fade into You” with Twin Limb) released his second solo full-length album, Eternally Even (stream it below), earlier this month to some considerable praise, and now he’s out on the road in support of it. The affable performer’s tour brings him through New York City this weekend to play Terminal 5 on Sunday night with dream-pop outfit Twin Limb opening. And despite feeling let down by the election (“Such a shame to see fear win out over love. But we have to remember this is just one contest and we still must have faith that humanity can win the greater game”), earlier this week, James connected with The House List from “beautiful Boston Commons underneath my favorite tree” to answer Five Questions.
When you’re writing, do you know as you’re doing it what it’s for—solo album, My Morning Jacket, something else—or is it that you just begin writing and see where it takes you? Songs usually speak to me and tell me what they want to be. Usually a song becomes a solo song because it is something I have just enjoyed working on like a puzzle alone in the studio, and then an MMJ song is a song I want a performance of.
Do you have any crutches when writing a song—are there certain words or styles you feel you lean on too much? Great question. Hmmmm, I feel like my main crutch is that I never have any idea what the fuck I am doing either personally or professionally.
How did My Morning Jacket end up backing Roger Waters at Newport Folk Fest? Did it stem from the Love for Levon show? Yes, we had such a time with Roger at Love for Levon. When we parted ways, we all said let’s do something again, not knowing if it would happen or not, and then it did for Newport, which was so beautiful. And then it did again for Bridge School, which again was unreal. What a thrill to share the stage with one of the greatest composers of the modern era. Roger is humble and friendly and fiercely intelligent and aware of exactly what he wants from each moment. It is incredibly intense working with him but ultimately very rewarding.
You lived in New York City for a while before returning to Louisville. What was your favorite part of living here and what do you most look forward to about coming back here to perform? I love NYC. I mean there is no place on earth like it. I love the rhythm and the flow and the sea of people every color of the rainbow in there together, just flowing trying to get somewhere, trying to get shit done! It’s incredibly inspiring and I carry its energy with me for quite some time after I leave each time.
What can we expect at Terminal 5 on 11/20? And how would you describe a Jim James show to someone who hasn’t seen you live? I’m not sure what to expect. It has been very exciting putting this new live show together and it’s feeling really fresh. I hope the show can be an outlet to get rid of bad energy as well and a place to come feel supported and loved and dance and scream! —R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog
Jim James is a human sunset: the multihued snapshot-worthy phenomenon bridging day and night. So it made perfect sense that the stage backdrop for his way-sold-out Webster Hall show last night was an array of LEDs spoked like the rays of the sun as it passes over the horizon—and it even displayed the colors to match. Opening with “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.),” the lead track off his new Regions of Light and Sound of God album, James appropriately sang, “You need the dark as much as the sun” as his backing band laid down a vicious nighttime groove.
The rest of the show was essentially a live version of the album, a set that felt broken into a few smaller parts. The opening number coupled with the heavy keys-and-bass “Know Til Now” represented James’s “Don’t worry, Webster Hall, I brought my own disco” portion of the night, the audience matching the energy from the stage as best they could. Next was a quieter, more acoustic section, marked by the beautiful instrumental “Exploding” followed by the pretty-melody section highlighted by “Of the Mother Again,” the lights flipping between sky blue and cloud white while a very funky extended Rhodes vamp churned the crowd. The set closed with a dark last-purple-throes-of-daylight pairing, headed by “All Is Forgiven,” with a constant swell of bass guitar and a marked rise in intensity that was stretched out into wonderful, mysterious-shroud territory.
Throughout, James’s presence was the focus. His activity was like an ’80s movie montage of motion, touching the extended fingers of those in the front row with his own, like E.T. with a cosmic cure-all, dancing away like an extra in Footloose with uninhibited glee and even doing some sort of mutation of Daniel LaRusso’s crane technique. Still, when it came down to it, his band carried the show. Whether it was an early set drum solo, full-groove keyboard playing, heavy guitar distortion or the constant funky bass, members of the audience were constantly craning their necks to see who was playing what and from where which sound was coming. As they followed James through a five-song, B-sides and rarities kind of encore that included “His Master’s Voice” and “The Right Place” off the Monsters of Folk album, it seemed this band needed their own name, an identity of their own. I think Jim James and the Sunsets has a nice ring to it. —A. Stein
Jim James – Music Hall of Williamsburg – February 19, 2013
Fans of My Morning Jacket’s perpetual motion machine, Jim James know there are (at least) three sides to his music. There’s the arena-rock star, there’s the folk crooner … and there’s the sexy soul machine. And while all three sides of his equilateral triangle were in evidence last night at the sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg, it was the latter that was in full force as James grooved and swayed his way through songs from his solo release Regions of Light and Sound of God. He took the stage beneath swirling crushed-velvet purple lights, and opening with “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U),” his voice was equally violet: half cool blue, half red hot.
This was a powerful start to the set. His band—heavy on the slinky electric piano and bass—seemed fully formed, well rehearsed and up to the task in only their fourth gig. The lights were perfectly synched to the song, going to black for dramatic effect when James sang “power going out” over and over in the coda. The energy only built from there with James singing “Know Til Now” and “A New Life” like the second coming of Stevie Wonder and Lionel Richie. “Of the Mother Again” was a highlight, with its distorted scratch-your-back guitar solo from James melting into some sugary keyboards, leading to the inevitable, and effective, use of the disco ball hanging above the packed dance floor.
Like all of James’s projects, this felt like anything but “something on the side.” Songs like “All Is Forgiven” had the band behind the man displaying a range of sounds, this one digging darker and mysterious with a sultry Arabian Nights changeup. The set closed with a long, seething slow-burn jam led by the superb bass player, as James eventually walked offstage while the band kept churning along. Of course, being supersexy can eventually become a tease if you don’t give ’em what they want, so the encore was an audience-gratifying miniset of My Morning Jacket songs: a solo acoustic “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)” followed by “Wordless Chorus,”“It Beats 4 U” and “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream, Pt. 2,” all perfectly handled by the band. While that would have been a complete 90 minutes of music, with Jim James, there’s always room for one more, so he went full rock star, closing out the night with a high-energy “Victory Dance,” the sexy snakeskin shed for one song, but not for too long, I’m sure. —A. Stein
There’s something about Ireland that breeds singer-songwriters, like Damien Rice, Villagers and Hozier. Enter James Vincent McMorrow. Having only picked up a guitar at the age of 19, the late boomer quickly tried to master other instruments in order to create richer layers of composition. Like a Celtic Bon Iver, he trapped himself in a house on an Irish coast to produce his 2010 debut, Early in the Morning(stream it below). McMorrow didn’t return with the follow-up, Post Tropical (stream it below), which shined more on his R&B and soul influences rather than folk music, for nearly four years. But he’s been downright prolific ever since. In fact McMorrow’s fourth full-length—and third in four years—True Care (stream it below), suddenly arrived just a few weeks ago. The Irish Times says, “McMorrow presents 15 new tunes that further consolidate his position as a songwriter of meaningful, depth-charged soul music.” While the Irish Examiner calls the album “a sublime, abstracted gift that keeps on giving.” And having just kicked off a North American tour in support of the new LP, McMorrow (above, performing “Get Low,” on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and, below, covering “Purple Rain”) returns to NYC to play Brooklyn Steel on Thursday night. —Sharlene Chiu
After years of recording, Karl Blau is finally having his moment. As a mainstay in the influential lo-fi folk scene built around K Records in the Pacific Northwest, he’s been churning out rock solid music that’s never followed the trends around him. Featuring his rich molasses-soaked baritone voice and effortless abilities to cross genres, each of Blau’s records is a rewarding journey that can just as easily bring listeners gratification as it can put you off guard. As great as these albums have been, Blau had been flying under the radar for far too long. But thanks to last year’s Introducing Karl Blau (stream it below), that all changed. With help from producer Tucker Martine and guests like Jim James, Jenny Lewis and Laura Veirs, Introducing found Blau reinterpreting classic songs by such artists as Townes Van Zandt, the Bee Gees and Link Wray. The results were absolutely breathtaking and the long-player brought him to a much wider audience, landing Blau (above, doing “Fallin’ Rain” live in studio for KEXP FM) a home with Bella Union for this year’s equally brilliant Out Her Space (stream it below). Comprised of all originals, the new album continues Blau’s winning streak and proves that one of underground music’s best-kept secrets is at the height of his powers. Blau plays Rough Trade NYC on Thursday with guitar mastermind Chris Forsyth—most known for his sprawling psychedelic work, like on this year’s Dreaming in the Non-Dream (stream it below)—and his Solar Motel Band, a truly great double bill that shouldn’t be missed. —Pat King | @MrPatKing
Louisville, Ky., road warriors My Morning Jacket are known for their wildly entertaining, energetic live performances deftly covering material from their seven studio albums, including 2015’s The Waterfall (stream it below), with a well-placed cover or two sprinkled throughout their set. They have a sum-of-their-parts sound—with each performer locked in unison—that still allows all five members room to shine. Frontman Jim James and guitarist Carl Broemel—perhaps the band’s secret weapon, at the very front of the stage, his hair furiously swaying in harmony with his slashing guitar—play in, at and around each other over the course of the entire two-plus-hours show, oftentimes face to face. But despite the fiery duo’s considerable presence, it’s Patrick Hallahan’s ferocious drumming, Tom Blankenship’s forward-thrusting bass (no more so than on “The Dark”) and Bo Koster’s subtle keys work that drive everything forward, one song into the next, often with an effortless-sounding segue. On Saturday at Forest Hills Stadium, My Morning Jacket (above, performing “Phone Went West” at Red Rocks), who have played New York City shows at rooms as small as Mercury Lounge and as big as Madison Square Garden, roll into Queens in mid-tour form. Guitar hero Gary Clark Jr. opens the show.
Plenty of musicians change their sound from album to album. Was that a clear intention in moving from the folkier Wildewoman to the poppier Good Grief? Or was that just how your sound evolved? It’s funny. People comment on how different the two are. But Wildewoman was recorded over a few years, and we were in no rush at the beginning because we didn’t have anything to be rushing for—we were just starting out. And we took our time and made it right. We came out with Wildewoman and we had kind of put the band together throughout and after making that record. So when we toured on it, things started to change, and the sound started to change. And the show got a lot more energetic, and the audience was reacting a lot more to the show than the record. People commented a lot how the live show and the record sounded so different, and that the live shows were so much more energetic. I think by the time we got to the end of that cycle, it was where Good Grief was picking up naturally, but from just listening from a record standpoint, there does seem to be a bigger difference than it felt like.
How was recording Good Grief different than recording Wildewoman? We took a different approach to it. We got off the road—we had been touring for, like, a year-and-a-half straight. And we were exhausted, and we decided to go to L.A. to kind of decompress and start writing. So Jess and I took a few months to write, just the two of us. And we would send the guys rough demos and then they would do their own versions of the same song—and kind of build arrangements around them. So when we went into the studio, we had at least two versions of everything. And we worked with Shawn Everett—he did the Alabama Shakes record with Blake Mills—he’s like this crazy alien angel person [laughing]. He’s one of our really closest friends, and he’s always got these wild ideas. So we were really excited to get into the studio with him. He had an idea to make communication easier with five very strong personalities in the studio. To kind of smooth things over and to get everyone’s voice heard, he thought it would be helpful to come up with a bunch of reference tracks: “For each track that we’re gonna work on, think of a song that you think could influence this.” So it could be “I like the sound of the tone on this Rolling Stones track.” Or “I like the way these vocals were recorded on this West African tune.” And we would all pick one or two songs and put ’em in a box, and he would pick them out one by one—it was all anonymous. And we would listen to everything, like 10 to 15 songs, and write down on a dry erase board everything we like about each one. It could be very specific, as far as a recording technique, or it could be more vague, like a feeling. And once we had this dry erase board of notes, we would then start working on the song. So it was a really interesting way of going about it, and I think we got a lot of good stuff we would’ve normally not even considered.
How did your appearance on Roadies come about? And any chance you’ll be adding “Willin’” to your set list? I mean, I don’t think we could top singing that with Jackson Browne, so probably not. Fair. Rafe Spall, who is one of the actors on Roadies—so the story goes: Rafe’s friend Rafe, which is hilarious to me. The first Rafe I ever met, and I met two of them in one day. His friend recommended our music to him, and he was playing it one day on set. And Cameron was like, “Who’s this?” And Rafe said, “This band Lucius.” And he said, “Well, let’s get ’em in here. See if they want to do an episode.” So we met him, and he’s the nicest guy ever. And we said, “Yeah, absolutely, we’d love to do this.” It was a really cool experience. It was really inspiring to see Cameron Crowe as a director and a leader. Everybody who was there, from the actors to the makeup people to the crew people to catering—everybody—was like, “Yeah, we work really hard, sometimes we work late hours, but we’re happy to do it because Cameron’s the man.” And he really was. We had some lines, and I was incredibly nervous about it because it’s not what we do normally. So there was this one line, and I was like, “This isn’t how I’d normally phrase this.” And I was trying to get my head inside it so I could say it the right way. And I asked him, and he said, “Let’s go over it.” And he dropped everything and took me aside, and he would’ve gone over this, like, one line with me for as long as I wanted—very, very patient. It was great, and we got to sing with Jackson Browne, and Jim James was on the set. It was cool.
For some bands, live shows are like a theater piece in that the set doesn’t change much, but the performers are aware of the subtle nuances each night. And for others, every night’s show is different than the one before. Where do you land on that spectrum? Like as far as each night being different? Yeah, I mean, a band like U2, they play pretty much the same set most nights, but it’s not the same show obviously. But someone like Bruce Springsteen or Pearl Jam, they change their set every night. I guess for each leg of a tour, we tend to stick generally to the same set. Some songs we change a little bit, but it’s nice once you get into a groove to stick with it, the transitions go more easily. But every show’s different regardless, especially because of the audience—not to put it all on the audience—but the vibe and the venue and the city, everything can really make a break a show for the performer. If your audience is really giving back to you, and you’re bouncing off of that, sometimes we have funny banter or things can change, or we’ll decide let’s do this song instead because they’re liking the up-tempo ones. So occasionally, it’s just, like, fly by the seat of your pants. But it’s definitely nice to get into a groove.
What new music have you been listening to? We’ve been listening to the new Angel Olsen record a lot. It only came out a couple weeks ago, I think. We’re excited to be playing with Big Thief in Central Park. And I’m stoked to see them ’cause I love that record. I love Alabama Shakes. We went to see that show at the Greek, and it was so good. That’s a good one to groove to, for sure. Was that with Kurt Vile? Yeah, and I love that record too. And Kurt Vile’s on the bill for One Big Holiday in February. Oh, yeah. That’s gonna be so fun! —R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog
Tame Impala – Radio City Music Hall – October 6, 2015
There was a sign taped to the entrance of Radio City Music Hall last night with a rather innocuous warning about the use of strobe lights during the evening’s performance. Considering what was awaiting the audience inside the theater, a more truthful sign might have offered something like: “Warning: You may be abducted by aliens” as Tame Impala transformed the historic room into a psychotropic, science-fiction landscape with their extraterrestrial sounds and out-of-this-world visuals. The band took the stage to a roar from the sold-out crowd and entered into several minutes of atmospheric instrumental jamming that broke the audience free from Earth’s gravity and entered them fully within Tame Impala’s orbit. Wasting no time, Kevin Parker and his mates immediately slipped into “Let It Happen,” the lead single from their newest album, Currents, which felt tailor-made for the band’s already formidable live show, with its layers of synths battling acid-wash guitars over multiple movements of increasing energy.
When seeing Tame Impala live, it’s difficult to disentangle the sights from the sounds: The pastel lights and kaleidoscopic projections contribute directly to how you hear the music and vice versa. Seeing them perform at Radio City, at its heart a glorious movie theater, the effect is multiplied by infinity. “Mind Mischief” found a hypnotic zone-out in the pulsing, jittering lines zooming across the screen. “The Less I Know the Better” felt like a lysergic Bee Gees groove with a digitally multihued beaded curtain streaming behind the band, a doorway to a psychedelic disco. “Eventually” had yellow sunshine lights pouring over Parker as he sang, “I know that I’ll be happier” before the band entered into a deep prog while rainbow spirographs came to life.
Looking back at the last few years of NYC Tame Impala gigs, the visuals and the music have followed a similar progression: The simply psychedelic green oscilloscope trace is still the heart of the projections, but it’s now evolved and mutated into an extrasensory artwork rivaling the sights at any rock show today. Likewise, the heady, explorative psych rock of InnerSpeaker and Lonerismis alive and well—the explosive “Elephant” was a centerpiece to the set—but has now sprouted branches of emotionally charged songwriting, clear, heartfelt vocals from Parker and layers of mind-altering synthesizer, alloyed together into a live-music masterpiece. As Tame Impala charged through the final stretch of their set, finding more exotic and progressive excursions along the way, building to the climactic highlight close of “Apocalypse Dreams,” the music and the light show feeling like almost too much, but only almost, the evening seemed to transcend.
Top Five Albums
1. The War on Drugs, Lost in the Dream 2. Total Control, Typical System 3. Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2 4. Coldplay, Ghost Stories
5. Parquet Courts, Sunbathing Animal —Charles Steinberg
Top Five Memorable Shows 1.Feist, Tarrytown Music Hall, 4/10
When I heard Feist was doing a tiny solo acoustic tour, I forked over ducats for this one. There were bits of stand-up-like banter with the audience as she stripped down the material. But what really made the night was a mini-reunion with former bandmate (and ex) Kevin Drew as they dueted on the Broken Social Scene classic “Lover’s Spit.” 2.(tie) Rhye, Webster Hall, 2/21 This performance was a bit misleading because although singer Milosh and producer Robin Hannibal are the members in Rhye, the latter member doesn’t tour. But Milosh’s ethereal voice really is the heart and soul of the pair, and it shone greatest for the hit “Open.” His deceptively androgynous voice sounds at times like Sade or even Antony Hegarty. (tie) Max Richter, The Bowery Ballroom, 12/7 When I saw that the German-British composer was playing Bowery, I had to hop to it. As Richter usually plays symphony concert halls, it was an interesting choice to play such a smaller venue. The Ballroom felt like a recital hall with the audience entranced. What can I say: I’m a sucker for artists playing unorthodox venues. 3. Glass Animals, The Bowery Ballroom, 7/7 I was recently reminded of this concert when my yoga instructor played “Gooey” in class. Pretty fitting, right? In addition to infectious dance melodies, frontman Dave Bayley’s gangly limbs flayed erratically that evening, bringing to mind another dude named Thom Yorke. The two lads have great music and dance moves to boot. Coincidence? I think not. 4. Phox, Knitting Factory, 7/22 The buzz swirling around this Wisconsin band post-SXSW had me tuned into their album all spring and into the summer. Frontwoman Monica Martin was definitely a bit tipsy, but that didn’t detract from her lush vocals or onstage camaraderie. (Check out Schuyler Rooth’s review of their Mercury Lounge gig.) 5. (tie) Mr. Little Jeans, Rough Trade NYC, 5/10 Opening for Sohn, Norwegian singer Monica Birkenes, aka Mr. Little Jeans, overshadowed the headliner for me. It’s rare when that happens, but this lady has a knack for übercatchy dance-pop songs that streamed through my head all summer. She mentioned how she often came here as a child and was really craving a good slice of pizza. What’s not to love? (tie) Alvvays, Rough Trade NYC, 7/28 New York City summers are packed with free outdoor gigs throughout the boroughs, but this in-store performance with Alvvays stood out amongst the rest. Their infectiously happy songs illuminated the dark back room of Rough Trade but had folks departing into the night with an extra bounce in their step. —Sharlene Chiu
Top Five Just a Man and His Guitar Solo Sets (chronological order)
1.Dustin Wong (opening set), The Bowery Ballroom, 4/21 2. Plankton Wat, Trans Pecos, 5/8 3.Steve Gunn, Mercury Lounge, 5/18 4.Willie Watson, Mercury Lounge, 5/21 5.Leif Vollebekk (opening set) The Bowery Ballroom, 11/21—A. Stein | @Neddyo
Top Five Memorable Shows 1. Sylvan Esso, Rough Trade NYC, 9/11 Both my favorite album and my most memorable live show of 2014 came from Sylvan Esso. Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn possess unwavering emotive energy, and every single lyric and beat has sunk into my psyche . I saw the duo perform live twice this year, most recently at their headlining show at Rough Trade NYC. The duo’s erudite electronica boosted the audience as they performed the entirety of their self-titled debut album plus and few clever covers. 2. Broods, Mercury Lounge, 3/3 Comprised of New Zealander siblings Caleb and Georgia Nott, Broods blend melodic melancholia with sparkling synths and glitchy beats. After getting wrapped up in their self-titled debut EP, I simply had to see them live. Broods played their first NYC show to an incredibly enthusiastic sold-out crowd at Mercury Lounge. 3. Hozier, The Bowery Ballroom, 5/13 Hozier’s rich voice and ardent lyrics sit front and center in his compositions. When he headlined The Bowery Ballroom back in May, he was flanked by equally talented musicians who created dazzling harmonies with choral echoes and rock hooks. Hozier and his bandmates mesmerized the audience, including me. 4. Dan Croll, The Bowery Ballroom, 4/17 Dan Croll’s brand of pop is highly addictive, and his live show is equally intoxicating. He fuses lilting pop, wonky electronica and tribal beats and tops it all off with clever lyrics and airy vocals. 5. Kishi Bashi, The Bowery Ballroom, 6/4 Kishi Bashi has what so many musicians seek, and that is an astounding live presence. It’s as if this guy belongs onstage. Kishi Bashi played back-to-back sold-out New York City shows this past June and stunned audiences with his whimsical finesse and astute lyrics. This picture and my review prove that Kishi Bashi’s live performance is one big euphoric dream sequence. —Schuyler Rooth | @Schuylerspeak
Top Five Albums 1. Under the Pressure, the War on Drugs
Channeling Dylan and Springsteen beneath Adam Granduciel’s vocals and personal struggles to stunning effect, this Philly six-piece put out, for me, far and away the top album of the year. 2. Benjamin Booker, Benjamin Booker From the very first listen, Benjamin Booker’s self-titled debut sounds familiar, not like you’d previously heard its influences, but rather you’d actually already heard this album. The music is lived in and alive and a joy to listen to again and again. 3. 77, Nude Beach Eighteen songs that sound like the love children of late-’70s Tom Petty and Elvis Costello. You’ll smile the whole time you listen to it. 4. Dancin’ with Wolves, Natural Child Recording for the first time as a five-piece, and moving away from gritty garage rock to
a more full-band bluesy country sound (with a side of boogie), these Nashville boys took a huge step forward. 5. Morning Phase, Beck Six years removed from his previous offering, Beck’s slow-building emotional relative of Sea Change captures you from the very first note. —R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog
“It’s good to be back,” acknowledged Wareham before noting, “I forgot that you can wait a long time for the D train on a Saturday.” This type of bittersweet observation runs throughout the lyrics of his new record, on songs like “Heartless People,”“Holding Pattern” and “Happy & Free,” which tackle some heavy emotions and general ennui with restraint and touch of wry humor. Performed live, the new material bore some of the sonic touchstones of Wareham’s work with his early bands—a hazy, dreamy wash of guitars blanketing the singer’s soft voice.
With Phillips by his side, Wareham and the band took the opportunity to play some Luna numbers during the set, including “Tiger Lily,”“Moon Palace” and “Lost in Space,” and they also threw in some Galaxie 500 pieces for good measure, like crowd-pleasers “When Will You Come Home”“Tugboat” and “Strange.” Despite the understated melancholy that pervades much of Wareham’s material, the show felt like a celebration of an expansive musical catalog that has sustained fans for nearly 30 years. With his new album, Wareham seems to be in a fruitful creative space, drawing on influences from the course of his career as he forges his own way. —Alena Kastin
My Morning Jacket/Wilco/Bob Dylan – Hoboken Pier A Park – July 26, 2013
(Photo: Eddie Bruiser)
What a view! What a bill! What a night! With a stage bracketed by the Empire State Building on one side and the Freedom Tower on the other—and just about perfect outdoor-concert weather—the AmericanaramA tour landed at Pier A Park in Hoboken, N.J., on Friday night. It was an evening for the skyscrapers of live rock and roll to strut their stuff on the same stage. My Morning Jacket began with “Circuital,”Jim James’s acoustic guitar sounding crisp in the summer air. MMJ are masters of the festival set, providing the perfect balance of fan favorites and special moments while packing enough of them into a limited time slot to make it feel like a much longer show. And so within the first four or five songs, the Jacket seemed to hit a couple dozen different spots and styles: “First Light” with a Flying V guitar, Carl Broemel on sax and funky keys from Bo Koster, “The Way That He Sings” with James belting it out to the crowd, a sweet spaced-out “Off the Record” with scrape-the-sky guitar work, and the steel-and-acoustic guitar summer-sun beauty of “Golden.” The special moments came when Brian Jackson joined in on flute, matching James’s howling on a great drums-and-bass-driven “It Beats 4 U” and adding a groovy R&B feel to the Gil Scott-Heron cover “The Bottle.” The action-packed set ended with opener Ryan Bingham coming back for a perfect sing-along cover of the Holland-Dozier-Holland classic “Don’t Do It,” in the style of the Band, multiple guitars manifesting the sound and energy of a full horn section.
Not bad, right? But wait, there’s more! The granddaddy of them all, Bob Dylan and His Band, closed the show. Dylan is still getting it done, the Chrysler Building to the taller and newer high-rises, his voice approaching old bluesman growl. His set featured plenty of newer songs and old classics—plus a cover of “The Weight” with Tweedy, James and the J. Geils Band’s Peter Wolf—his band sounding great with a perfect mix of blues and country under a clear night sky. Compared to the opening sets, Dylan took his own pace, a natural gait of a man who’s done a few shows in his time. Personally, I was excited to hear two of my favorite Dylan tunes, “Tangled Up in Blue” and “She Belongs to Me.” What a night! —A. Stein