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Ain’t no need for repeatin’ when My Morning Jacket play The Wiltern

By Pete Mauch //

My Morning Jacket //
The Wiltern – Los Angeles
September 11th-13th, 2012 //

When My Morning Jacket announced a three-night run at the historic Wiltern in LA, my initial reaction was I would only go to one or two shows at most. Then, I discovered that MMJ was folding the three shows into the “Spontaneous Curation Tour”, meaning fans could tweet or suggest on Facebook which songs they want to hear. Even upon hearing this news, I was still skeptical. Then, MMJ announced they would not repeat any songs at these three shows. So, I did what any like-minded person would do — I bought tickets for all three nights. I truly felt this was gift from the band to all the die-hard “Jacket” fans. Thank You.

Night 1: September 11th, 2012 // Setlist & photos

MMJ started night one with a powerful take on “Circuital”, which is the title track off their latest album. I really enjoyed the song placement of this track. It’s absolutely perfect for an opener because it builds into an amazing climax that had the crowd engaged from the start, and that’s not easy to do in LA. Jim James donned his classic jacket that looks more like a cape drapped over his back as he came out on stage. With his long curly hair, you can barely see his face as his beautiful voice bellows out to the crowd. After “Circuital” they dove head first into crowd favorite “It Beats 4 U” and they brought the heat with this version of the song.

One of the biggest surprises of the night was the Elton John cover “Rocket Man”. Anything this band touches has the capability of becoming instant gold, and “Rocket Man” delivered on that concept. They ended the set with one of the best three-song segments I’ve heard any band play: “The Day is Coming”, “Touch Me Im Going to Scream pt.2” and “Gideon” with the latter being the best version I’ve heard this band play. The lyrics to this song are still as powerful as they’ve always been. I found myself with arms as high as possible, screaming “Most of us believe that is wrong”. Absolutely nothing was wrong this My Morning Jacket show.

The encore started with the mellow “Butch Cassidy”, a song that invokes the Sundance Kid himself. It segued beautifully into “Wonderful”, one of my favorite MMJ ballads. The next song caught me by surprise, and I was standing there bewildered because they were actually playing “It Makes No Difference” by The Band. This rendition found James channeling the late Rick Danko, and I’m forever grateful to have witnessed this moment. MMJ moved past the first three slow encore songs and started the dance party up again with a sick rendition of “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” by all time great Prince. They ended the night with a song I’ve been waiting to hear live for a long time, and I knew I wasn’t the only one when the first chords of “Phone Went West” were struck. What a great song to end a near-perfect show.

Night 2: September 12th, 2012 // Setlist & photos

After such an wonderful opening night at The Wiltern, I couldn’t even begin to think of how MMJ could top such a performance. The best part about Night 2 is they didn’t try. Opposed to the sheer energy displayed night one, the group had a much more mellow vibe on Wednesday. If you’re a long time MMJ fan who has deep knowledge of their catalog, this show was for you. Now, if you’re a just a radio-friendly fan looking to hear the usual classics, then you might have left a little confused. As for me and my fellow Jacket followers, this show was a real treat.

MMJ started things off with two slow ones, “Rollin Back” and “The Way that He Sings” and kept this vibe pretty much the entire first section of the show. They picked the pace up a bit for the third song with a solid take on “First Light”. I’m a fan of this song, and I’ll welcome it almost any time at a show. They kept the momentum going when they jumped into “Aluminum Park” and had the crowd screaming “Come on baby! It’s a Big Big World” until they transitioned seamlessly into “What a Wonderful Man”. For anybody only familiar with the album Z, “What a Wonderful Man” was the only song they caught from that defining album on this night.

Jacket returned to the mellow motif of the night with a beautiful song “Picture of You” that I had never heard live. I’ve always known that Carl Broemel, lead guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, could play a mean guitar, but I never knew he could blow the saxophone so well, which he showcased throughout the night. Broemel really shined Night 2; if he wasn’t on lead guitar or sax, he was laying down beautiful textures on the pedal steel guitar. His moment truly came when James gave him the nod and Broemel took over lead vocals for his own tune titled “Carried Away”. Now absolutely no disrespect here, but I went to use the bathroom and grab a beer at this point. When I came back to my spot on the rail, I was pretty upset I had left, because the group was absolutely shredding on this track. I now know to never leave during a “Carl Song.”

The real meat of the show was the last four songs of the set, starting with a dark and twisted version of “Evil Urges”, the title track off their 2008 album. The next song, a beautiful take on Erykah Badu’s “Tyrone” was one of the highlights of the set for me. The lyrics at the beginning of the song are pretty much perfect for James to sing: “Every time you come around, you have to bring Jim, James, Paul and Tyrone.” So, as you see, James is actually singing his own name. You gotta love that!

After that amazing cover, MMJ decided to bring The Wiltern into a full-on dance party when they dropped into “Cobra”. This was my first time hearing this song live, and I had no idea this song oozes with such amazing dance-y grooves. I found myself turning to my “stiff” neighbors and telling them to start groovin’ because this wasn’t gonna be a quick one — and it wasn’t because the song clocks in at 24 minutes on their 2004 EP Chocolate & Ice. They teared into this great dance tune with serious power and didn’t let up, segueing right into “Run Thru”. At this point, I was in utter disbelief at what I was witnessing.

MMJ decided to keep the vibe of the show intact, and they did so by playing an angelic version of ‘Steam Engine’ that showcased Carl Broemel on pedal steel once again. For the next song, My Morning Jacket invited the opener, Iron and Wine, on stage for a beautiful cover of George Harrison’s ‘Isn’t It a Pity.’ Sam Beam from Iron and Wine really complimented James’s voice, which added to the unique take on the cover. They closed out the night with a fan favorite, which was probably a breath of fresh air for a lot of casual MMJ fans. ‘Mahgeetah’ is just a plain ‘ol fun song, and it was a raucous ending to an otherwise beautifully subdued show.

Night 3: September 13th, 2012 // Photos

Walking into Night 3 after experiencing two top-notch shows, I didn’t really know what to expect. The only thing I knew for certain was that “One Big Holiday” would probably close the night off. But other than that, anything was on the table. They got the set rolling with some slower songs, “At Dawn” and “The Dark”, which I thought was an odd choice for an opening pair of songs, mostly since Night 2 was dominated by a mellow vibe. That said, both songs were well performed.

They switched gears and slammed into “Off the Record”, which is a playful and energetic song, and it set the tone for the rest of the set. Also in the earlier part of the set, James and the band showed their gratitude for all the fans in attendance, especially those who made it all three nights, with a beautiful ballad “Thank You Too”. The next song that really struck a cord with me is the often played yet always well-received “Golden”. This song is beautiful and quite inspiring. It gives the listener the feeling that no matter what happens in this crazy world, you’ll always have that special someone by your side. “Golden” is one of those special songs that can harness spectacular emotion.

I’ve always been a fan of MMJ’s happy and danceable songs, but there’s nothing I enjoy better than a dark and haunting tune that has me clenching my fists and grinding my teeth. The song that delivers this feeling the most for me is “Dondante”. There’s no surprise that this song is about a dear friend of James’ who struggled with mental illness and ultimately killed himself. Every time MMJ plays this twisted tune, James walks to the back of the stage and says a few words for his buddy before he pays tribute to him in the best way possible: Music.

They gave the audience a breather after the scorcher of “Dondante” and played the ballad “Librarian”. My girlfriend got really excited because “Librarian” was the one song she asked for through MMJ’s Facebook account. She believes that this song was played for her, given how rare this song is these days, and I couldn’t agree more. Either way, it was a nice treat before they shocked the crowd with an amazing cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin'”.

The last part of the set was outstanding, starting with “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 1”, which had James leave the guitar work to Broemel while he danced around a la Jim Morrison and belted out the almost-awkward lyrics. He kept his mic handy while they went into a fun version of “Wordless Chorus”, followed by the funky “Highly Suspicious”. But MMJ didn’t play just any ‘ol version — this one had a full horns section to compliment the band. The horns section stayed on stage for the closer of “Dancefloors”, which literally had everyone in the house dancing on the floor. The encore that was to follow is one for the ages.

They came out blistering with the horn section on “Victory Dance”, and they kept the momentum up for “Holdin’ on to Black Metal”, which was where the horns section got the full attention they deserve. Then, it was time for a couple covers supported by the horns section, starting with “All Night Long” by Lionel Ritchie for the first time since 2010. Jacket wanted to keep that party vibe going to end the run, so they went into yet another dance-y cover song, “Movin’ on Up” by Curtis Mayfield. An unreal two-song-cover-combo had me and the crew going absolutely buck wild. We all knew “One Big Holiday” was coming, and when it did, the crowd responded with a huge uproar, especially with the line “Was a bad man from California.”

This was one of the best three–night runs I have seen any band perform, and I truly hope that My Morning Jacket makes these types of setlists, built by spontaneity and fan interaction, a regular concept. MMJ is one of the best rock ‘n’ roll bands on the planet, and I hope this signifies a rebirth for them.

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Comments

  1. Michael in SoCal says:

    Great review. Stoked to be going to One Big Holiday early in 2015. It’s going to be awesome.

  2. Such a great in depth review Pete, beautiful pictures too!

  3. sean bickle says:

    VU cover! sounds like an epic three nights.

  4. This has me so pumped for the Berkeley show!!!

let's hear it!

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