My Morning Jacket spotlight the long-awaited return of live music to SoCal with a powerful performance at the Santa Barbara Bowl

My Morning Jacket (Jim James) at Santa Barbara BowlBy Josh Herwitt //

My Morning Jacket with Durand Jones & The Indications //
Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA
September 23rd, 2021 //

The past 18 months have been hard to say the least. No matter how you’re feeling at this moment in time, the COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably created additional issues and stressors for many folks while also taking away some of the things we enjoy most about life.

And for those of us who love live music, its absence has been quite a blow to the psyche.

If anything, being locked down at home for more than a year has only made us long for the thrill of watching an artist or band command an audience’s attention and completely mesmerize its fans.

Yet with so much uncertainty still in the world, it’s almost surreal to think that concerts have finally made their return. Yes, you’ll need to offer proof of your COVID-19 vaccination status or a negative test within 48-72 hours, but it sure beats tuning into another livestream from your couch.

So when My Morning Jacket announced a 23-date jaunt across the U.S. for the second half of 2021 that included a stop at the always-exquisite Santa Barbara Bowl where we caught them nearly six years ago (read our review here), I knew that was one show I couldn’t miss and boy, am I glad that I didn’t.

My Morning Jacket - Santa Barbara Bowl

The Louisville-bred rockers are back on the road touring in support of their forthcoming self-titled LP — and ninth studio album — this October after releasing The Waterfall II in 2020, and they wasted no time reminding us of that fact by beginning with its first single “Regularly Scheduled Programming” to follow what was an upbeat and soulful opening set from Durand Jones & The Indications.

But this headlining performance on the second day of the fall season was as much about the quintet’s new material, including the slow burn of “In Color” for our very first listen of the My Morning Jacket cut, as it was a golden — pun intended since the It Still Moves track by the same name made it onto the setlist this night — opportunity for Jim James (lead vocals, guitar), Tom Blankenship (bass), Patrick Hallahan (drums, percussion), Bo Koster (keyboards, percussion, backing vocals) and Carl Broemel (guitar, pedal steel guitar, saxophone, backing vocals) to put their expansive catalog on display.

MMJ, after all, gifted us not only both parts of “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream” but also hair-raising renditions of “Lay Low”, “One Big Holiday”, “It Beats 4 U”, Spring (Among the Living) and “Anytime” while James belted out the lyrics to songs like “Wordless Chorus” (with the disco ball in full effect), “Circuital” and “Feel You” that reaffirmed why he has had one of the best voices in rock, if not all of music, for more than two decades now.

When it came time for the encore though, James and company once again delivered the goods to a crowded amphitheater that was already brimming with excitement. Starting with fan favorite “Victory Dance” before transitioning into “Off the Record” from their seminal record Z, they offered “Where to Begin” on the “Elizabethtown” soundtrack for the first time since 2015. Nonetheless, that brief respite was quickly countered with a final rush of blood to the head that featured “Wasted”, “Run Thru” and “Dancefloors” as the clock struck 10 p.m. to mark the Bowl’s early curfew time.

Cruising back down U.S. 101 to Los Angeles later that evening, I reflected on the last year without live music and how rough it has been to not see some of my favorite acts in the flesh. But after witnessing more than two hours of pure sonic bliss at one of the best venues along the West Coast, I am beyond grateful that there’s MMJ to welcome us all home again.

Setlist:
Regularly Scheduled Programming
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 1
Wordless Chorus
Circuital
Lay Low
I’m Amazed (Jim and Carl solo, then full band)
Evil Urges
Golden
Feel You
Climbing the Ladder
One Big Holiday
In Color
It Beats 4 U
Love Love Love
Spring (Among the Living) (>)
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2
Anytime

Encore:
Victory Dance
Off the Record
Where to Begin (last played 11/25/2015)
Wasted (>)
Run Thru (End>)
Dancefloors

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