My Morning Jacket has a Kentucky Fried homecoming

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My Morning Jacket
KFC Yum! Center
Louisville, Kentucky
October 29, 2010



After a few years of the kind of success that any band would envy, My Morning Jacket returned home to Louisville, Kentucky for a Halloween show to help inaugurate the newest addition to the skyline, the KFC Yum! Center.  Over the last decade, MMJ has won Grammy Awards and the hearts of hundreds of thousands of adoring fans worldwide. In the process, they have released multi-platinum albums, live concert recordings, and a feature length movie. Through all of this, members of this dynamic crew have still managed to be involved in a host of one offs and side projects along the way.

mmj_4.jpgNever a band to rest on their laurels, they are working on material for a new album, and they’re getting some help from some very local sources.  By choosing to collaborate with fellow Louisville natives and opening act for the evening’s festivities, Wax Fang, MMJ provided just another sign of the fact that no matter how large they grow, they will always have their home in their heart.

The show had been long anticipated by area residents as the first big show – in fact pretty much the first big anything – held in the new basketball arena. The University of Louisville received an early Christmas present this year with the state of the art downtown arena with all of the shops and premium sight lines for which they could possibly yearn. Though eager to hear the music, many attendees were almost as excited for their first peek inside the facility.  Walking the concourses, necks craned to take in the sweeping lines of the new home for the university’s teams, and of course, live music fans were awed into slack jawed amazement at the arena.  As a non smoking venue, it even still had that new arena smell to it.

With Halloween a few short days later, many concert goers chose to arrive in their finest disguises, from the standard witches and ghouls, to more shocking fare. Arriving early was the order of the day, as hosts My Morning Jacket had a few treats planned for the night’s performance, not the least of which were special guests the Louisville Youth Orchestra, who played a selection of cover and mash-ups between classical pieces like Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 to Led Zeppelin’s "Kashmir." The kids acquitted themselves admirably and made many a smile appear throughout the venue with their exuberance and skill.

Local trio Wax Fang took the next slot in full costumed glory, using LED wiring and excellent costuming to become characters from the film, "Tron." Always good for a rocking time, their onstage antics and visual creations are as known for their complexity as their jangled rock ditties.  When a feedback whine was determined to be being caused by the wiring, guitarist Scott Carney asked the crowd whether he should turn off the suit or play through the noise. The crowd was overwhelming in their resounding statement to "Keep on Shining!"  And shine they did, playing to the biggest crowd of their short careers. With this show under their belts, and a collaboration planned for the new MMJ album, Wax Fang is on the rise, and deservedly so. wax_fang-2.jpg

Easily the biggest thing to come out of Louisville musically in decades, My Morning jacket has the assuredness and the swagger down pat.  But they are more than just full blown rock stars; they’re also true sons of the city.  Setting up a "Local Village" of booths and vendors who were wholly Kentucky oriented and focused, MMJ provided area causes and craftspeople a place to show what can be made by neighbors.  Along with the shopping opportunities, the band’s strong charity and advocacy bent was on display, with representatives from Blessings in a Backpack, Americana Community Center, The Louisville Ballet, and the aforementioned Louisville Youth Orchestra all their to spread their message. With so much talk about the coarsening of society, it is deeply moving to see a band use as much of its resources to help bridge gaps and help their community as My Morning Jacket does.

Waves of excited energy ran wild through the crowd as the first notes made a roar mighty enough to shake the freshly poured foundations, and the hometown heroes were greeted as one would expect returning conquerors to be: with exuberance and manic shouts of joy. The band, as comfortable as any act in front of a crowd of 15-some-odd-thousand, responded to the challenge of rocking so many faces with relish and style.  Front man and guitarist Jim James stalked the stage with style, a great cape covering his frame. James had the crowd in the palm of his hand from the very first instant, and never let them go.

The rhythm section of Tom Blankenship on bass and Patrick Hallahan on drums are both as nimble as they are talented. The music of MMJ is diverse, rocking full-tilt one moment, and with a near-hushed restraint the next. Filling out that sound with notes to fill the nooks and crannies of each song is Bo Koster on keyboards, who provides the band with a dimension beyond the simple garage rock sound without overpowering the rock roots the band is built upon. Lead guitarist Carl Broemel lays his case for lead instrumentalist with blistering lines and hushed chords, providing every sound needed with equal precision, style, and each note being uniquely his.

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Having been a few years since their last show, the crowd had ample time to build up wish lists for songs, and the band did not disappoint.  Playing a lengthy set list that covered the entirety of their recording careers, no MMJ fan left feeling completely shut out when it came to their favorite period of the band. 

The orchestra joined them on consummate opener "Wordless Chorus" and other tunes including "Bermuda Highway," "Evil Urges," "Gideon" and Curtis Mayfield’s "Move on Up," and MMJ managed to effectively avoid the potential trap of overly changing their sound to match their guests. Rather, the talented young prodigies played with a subtlety that blended with, as opposed to taking over, the tunes. "Gideon," "Mahgeeta" and "Dondante," were show stoppers, and the crowd consumed every note with a ferocious appreciation for what was transpiring. People who grew up alongside the band got to see their old skateboarding friends become big league musicians for a night, and the pride in the arena was palpable.

Always present at the forefront of the sonic mix, the band rises and falls like waves on the strength of James and his engaging rapport with the audience.  On this night, the demonstration of his maturity shone immensely through his ability to sing with raw emotion one moment and then seamlessly transcend into the next vocal range with an aching falsetto.

Having grown up musically before the eyes of the city, the prodigal sons returned, minted as one of the biggest draws in the land.  My Morning Jacket gave the hometown crowd all they could want and more, even donning Colonel Sanders costumes in honor of the holiday and the new venue. The demonstration of their playful side that came in the midst of some of the most serious rocking imaginable was a touching moment as it was clear that this was planned for a gig in a city for which they deeply care.

Appropriately, the night would end on a celebratory note with an enthusiastic and bolstered rendition of "One Big Holiday." It was plainly evident why these boys have transcended beyond the local music scene. They are a collective rare talent with a unique and universal sound and on this night, My Morning Jacket showed that they are a band with no limits or fear, all while proudly stating: we are home.

Set List: Wordless Chorus (+ LYSO), Evil Urges, (+ LYSO), Gideon (+ LYSO), The Way That He Sings (+ LYSO),  Heartbreakin Man, Golden, Thank You Too! (+ LYSO), Evelyn Is Not Real, Anytime, Mahgeetah, Carried Away, Wonderful (The Way I Feel), I’m Amazed, Circuital, Dondante, Smokin From Shootin, (end of) Run Thru, Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Pt.2, (end of) Lay Low, Phone Went West, Bermuda Highway (+ LYSO), Librarian (+ LYSO), Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Pt.1, Highly Suspicious, Off The Record, Move On Up (+ LYSO), One Big Holiday

Click the thumbnail to view Rex Thomson’s Shots from the show!

 

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