Ten years ago, My Morning Jacket bandleader Jim James opted to record his vocal tracks in a grain silo in lieu of a traditional studio — a move that made an unmistakeable impact on Americana music thereafter. And though the band’s sound quickly evolved from fundamental alt.-country to something more experimental, avante-garde and generally eluding classification — that reverb allegiance to both instrument and voice washed over Red Rocks on Thursday night like a typhoon.
Touring in support of its latest release, 2011’s “Circuital,” My Morning Jacket powered through a catalog-spanning set that pushed toward three hours by final bow. Song selections weighed heavily from 2005’s “Z” and 2003’s “It Still Moves,” with only the cream of new material wafting atop anthem after contemporary rock anthem.
Sure, it was great to see James and Co. at their moody, weird best on the one-two opening punch of “Victory Dance” and “Circuital,” but the Kentucky quintet didn’t hit its stride until traditional rockers like “Off The Record” and “Lay Low.” Guitarist Carl Broemel proved a tour-de-force opposite the wild-haired, pereptually-howling James. His downward, in-the-pocket instrument gaze was the Yin to James’ skyward, salvation-seeking Yang. Both members, perched at opposite ends of the Red Rocks stage, defined the My Morning Jacket aesthetic: complex rock ‘n’ roll delivered in an accessible, bombastic package.
The high-decibel performance gave little respite for ringing eardrums. (Acoustic songs like “Golden” and “Wonderful” were more of a chance for the audience to exhale than anything else.) And while groove-based numbers like “Gideon,” “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream, Part 2″ and “Wordless Chorus” may have won over the masses, it was a pair of fundamental rockers that made the night a success. The southern blues of “Honest Man” and the unadulterated jubilation of show-closer “Mahgeeta” proved this is a band that, for all of its experimentation, is still at its best when soaked in twang, reverb and that intangible notion of Americana. On Thursday night, with 9,500 unified voices and natural echoes between rock formations, it seemed that Jim James’ grain silo dreams of a decade earlier had been fully realized.
Joe McCabe is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. Check out his website.