My Morning Jacket at HOB Anaheim, 01/05/07
I haven't been excited by any music in a long, long time.
Wait, wait. Was that pretentious enough for you?
Well, how about this: I haven't been excited by any new music in a long, long time.
But Friday night's My Morning Jacket show at the House of Blues, Anaheim was the first concert in awhile that I was actually anticipating.
Hell, I was even standing on the floor and—lucky me—next to two thirty-something bros, double-fisting Rockstars and Budweisers, with Peter Pan complexes who felt the need to provide running commentary throughout the entirety of the show.
Elvis Perkins and his Dearland band opened up the show. The first time I saw Perkins live was at this past summer's Lollapalooza—sitting cross-legged on the grass underneath the shade of some trees, the breeze coming in from Lake Michigan (behind the stage) blowing through Grant Park—it was perfect. But Friday night's set proved to be a little mournfully slow for the restless House of Blues audience. However, Perkins managed to win over even the skeptics with the help of the Cold War Kids, who joined them on stage for two (Bro #1: What is this—The Last Waltz disc two???") of his more upbeat songs, like my personal favorite, "May Day!"
I've read somewhere that Perkins adjusts his setlists after gauging what he feels the audience can handle—the particularly heart-wrenching "Ash Wednesday" being a song he doesn't perform often live.
After the third or fourth melancholy (but oh so good) song, my friend turned to me and asked, "Are all his songs like this?" And then I explained that it might have something to do with the fact that his mother was on that American Airlines flight that had crashed into the North Tower during 9/11 and that his father (actor Anthony Perkins) had passed away from AIDS.
"Oh," she said. And then she diverted her attention back to the stage again. "I get it."
Perkins finished his set off with "Doomsday" (Bro #1's wife/girlfriend/whatever: "He sounds like Neil Young!"—he doesn't) and then it was time for My Morning Jacket, whose lead singer later remarked that Perkins is beautiful like a wisp of cotton candy.
The gloriously long setlist:
1. It Beats 4 U
3. The Way That He Sings
4. What A Wonderful Man
5. Off the Record
7. O Is The One That Is Real
8. The Bear
9. Lay Low
10. Heartbreakin' Man
11. Wordless Chorus
13. Phone Went West
14. One Big Holiday
15. Tonight I Want To Celebrate With You
16. How Could I Know
17. I Will Sing You Songs
19. Run Thru
Admittedly, I actually disliked My Morning Jacket for years and years—it wasn't until I heard "Off the Record" (easily the "Maps" or "Float On" of 2006) one day in a friend's car did I give the band another listen.
You know, I've got to hand it to My Morning Jacket. They're definitely showmen, something not so common in these times of quiet bands that just play-and-leave. I'd love to shake the hand of the dude who takes care of their lighting: spot lights, slow strobe lights, fast strobe lights, backlights, toplights, pitch darkness staccatoed by bursts of spotlight in all the right dramatic spots! All of which totally created awesome lighting for their awesome hair. (And it was just bright enough to coo at the giant grizzly bear plushie in the poncho and Mickey Mouse sorcerer hat onstage.)
But Jim James' impassioned-but-dreamy, far-far-away vocals pierced through the darkness. Not to mention the many, many hair thrashing, guitar solos in a lone spotlight. It was all one big throwback to the sounds of classic rock—with cutesy indie rock losing its momentum, what else could explain the fact that shoegazer, psychedelia and alt-country have been deemed as cool once again?
And here's where I reach my disgustingly cliche (I called myself out on it, so you don't get to laugh, k?) conclusion: My Morning Jacket's just something you need to experience live. And not live like in a crowd of thousands at a X, Y, or Z summer festival live, but in a club, in the darkness, with a mass of fans feeding off every note, wail and flash of the strobe light.