LIVE REVIEW: My Morning Jacket @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney (03/04/12)

Jim James of My Morning Jacket | photo by Chris Familton

by Chris Familton

My Morning Jacket did the early attendees a great service in bringing Dawes down to Australia with them and it was a real shame more people weren’t there to get a taste of their straightforward Americana that caught the ear with its plentiful use of space and some nice power pop dynamics. Fronted by Taylor Goldsmith, the band is definitely more than just a bunch of supporting musicians for the singer/guitarist. They add the essential bounce and swagger and quite beautiful vocal harmonies. In particular drummer Griffin Goldsmith showed he possesses a voice of equal quality to his wonderfully economical drumming. Dawes fulfilled their role as an opening act yet they also won over a bunch of new fans.

With any My Morning Jacket show you know the key word is going to be ‘epic’ for they are a band that don’t rock up, play ten songs and leave the stage. Their catalogue has expanded to include all manner of styles and highlights so it was inevitable we would get a 2 hour plus performance taking in all of the band’s career twists and turns. Victory Dance, the opening track on last year’s Circuital was the perfect opener, setting the scene with Jim James’ be-coated figure lurching around the stage with an an audio unit for triggering sounds hanging from his neck. He looked like some digital hobo preaching the end of the world while the band worked their way into the song. With it’s swirling dark electronics and psychedelic guitar it set the template for  the twenty odd songs that would follow, showcasing the real diversity in MMJ’s sound.

Over half of Circuital was played, with nearly all of those songs working as well as the usual suspects in the band’s live sets. The album’s title track was initially widescreen, moody and sparse before bursting into life with lights flooding the Enmore and the crowd responding with similar enthusiasm. Outta My System sounded even more in debt to The Beach Boys than on record while Wonderful (The Way I Feel) was the perfect vehicle for experiencing that soaring pure tone of James’ that can both melt hearts and elevate spirits.

James is in many ways the consummate frontman. He spoke little between songs yet he knows when to engage with the crowd via a lean over the front of the stage, a gesture or a comical draping of a towel or jacket over his head – which he did on a number of occasions. He also isn’t too precious in that he can lose himself in the music and when the band really hit their straps on songs like Off The Record, Lay Low and the epic groove of Holdin’ On To Black Metal James became a whirling dervish, spinning, bouncing and flailing his hair while still nailing those spiraling solos.

As well as MMJ do large scale epic songs that change mood and build atmosphere they nailed their less adventurous yet perfectly formed songs with just as much impact. Wordless Chorus was melodic heaven, dripping with deep soul and James doing his best Michael Jackson shuffles and whoops. I Will Sing You Songs felt like a distant lullaby as you approach deep sleep while Golden remains one of their real gems that sounded like a timeless classic ringing out through the cavernous theatre.

Though the crowd was smaller than expected they more than made up for a lack of numbers with their enthusiasm and the screams and applause that met each familiar song. MMJ showed they were hellbent on giving their fans an expansive and near flawless performance full of soaring melodies, good humour and exceptional playing that always seems to carry an emotional weight of sincerity.

this review was first published on FasterLouder

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