If there’s a better bandleader in rock than Jim James (that isn’t named Bruce Springsteen), I haven’t seen him or her. Touring behind his first proper solo album, “Regions of Light and Sound of God,” My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James absolutely dazzled a sold out Ogden Theatre Thursday night.
Similar to the experience of My Morning Jacket, hearing James and his band live, as opposed to recorded, is stunning. James poses himself on stage and sings with a hushed atmospheric spirituality with added layer upon layer of sonics. Performances and musicians like these are why you simply have to hear some music live. As usual the Ogden’s sound was above average — never needlessly loud or distorted.
James, and the four great musicians with him, came out and were tuned in from the very start and they kept it up for 140 minutes, including encore. They played the entire album in sequence; because that’s how the songs flow best and need to be heard. It’s an album-long suite of songs linked musically and lyrically. Think Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” except James is wishing for God, not Syd Barrett.
The songs used elements of psych, soul, funk, jazz, folk and EDM — often two or three of them at once. James, dressed in a brown suit in front of a neon sunrise, was like a manic, angel-voiced preacher at some inexplicably Day-Glo Church. The man is a rock star, but rarely acts like one. He’s charismatic, sings, emotes like hell, but it all fits within the song’s space. It’s not all about him. Even touring a solo album, playing live, he may be a bandleader, but he knows how to be a band member, too.
The keyboards, electronics and fuzzy guitar, along with monster percussion behind James, seamlessly shifted eras. Live, the Middle Eastern drone riff of “All Is Forgiven” was riveting. The whole show sounded contemporary (the electronica never dominating), yet overall the night had a recognizable ’70s multi-genre vibe.
When not singing, James alternated between bliss producing moments of guitar shredding (the tone, like honey) or adding a different, but equally wonderful atmosphere to the songs with some excellent saxophone. Never mind that My Morning Jacket isn’t playing Red Rocks this year. Bring James’ band there this summer.
Proving again that bands from Sweden are making some of the more interesting music of late, Cold Specks opened the show rather well, ending their set with a captivating vocal performance by their front woman, London-based soul singer, Al Spx.
Mike Long is a Longmont-based writer and comedian and a regular contributor to Reverb.