After nearly a decade and a half, a My Morning Jacket concert is rapidly becoming that of legend in the world of music. Yes, that’s right, legend. Virtually every time they claim the stage, they have something up their sleeve that will soon leave their fans’ heads spinning. Last night’s performance at Louisville’s Palace Theater, the official launching of their new album Circuital, did just that. Multiple times over, I might add. The entire production was streamed live on YouTube and Vevo as part of the American Express "Unstaged" Concert Series.
They promised the night would be full of surprises, and the first surprise came with the raising of the stage’s curtain and MMJ, not Erykah Badu, appearing in front of an elaborate giant “Circuital” eye from the album’s cover art as the stage backdrop. The audience erupted into a chaotic frenzy as the first note chimed from Bo Koster’s keyboard, and they went right into the opening track from Circuital, “Victory Dance.” Just like on the album, they followed with a majestic version of the title track “Circuital” and all of a sudden it seemed as though a live run through the entire album was in store. But that quickly dissipated once they followed up with Z’s “Off The Record.”
Certainly more cuts from other albums would follow, and that they did with a heartfelt version of “Gideon” and “Mageetah,” a candid performance of “I’m Amazed,” an aw-inspiring version of “Smokin’ From Shootin,” and both versions of “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream.”
Even Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer couldn’t help but make an appearance, declaring MMJ as “the world’s greatest band” and announcing that through an online poll the song fans most wanted to hear was “Steam Engine.” The performance that followed of the song was mesmerizing to say the least.
A host of other guest musicians joined MMJ onstage throughout the night including Wax Fang’s Kevin Ratterman, who aided in percussion on several songs, Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore who joined in on “Wonderful (The Way I Feel),” and of course, Erykah Badu who added some soul to “Wordless Chorus” and “The Day Is Coming.” MMJ also performed two of Badu’s songs, “Twinkle,” and “Tyrone” which was highlighted by Jim James bowing down before Badu while she stroked his hair, and James simultaneously blistering out one wicked guitar solo. The onstage drama was intense and this proved to be the pinnacle of the night.
Over the years MMJ has given some amazing performances and played some of the world’s most storied venues. From Coachella to Bonnaroo, Madison Square Garden to Boston Symphony Hall, and Saturday Night Live to David Letterman, MMJ has done it all. And although I’ve not attended one of those performances I can confidently say that last night’s 3+ hour performance at Louisville’s Palace Theater had to be their most legendary yet. In one night they transformed Louisville’s Palace Theater into their own makeshift commune, played virtually every song off their new album “Circuital” and basically every other hit from their previous discography.
They ignited the crowd to the point where nobody ever really sat in their seats and instead spent the entire night dancing wherever they could muster a move, raising the temperature inside the Palace to something that felt like a sauna. After the concert ended, fans were high-fiving, hugging and cheering all the way out the door and onto 4th Street. At that moment I realized what MMJ had done. They hadn’t just released a new album or just given another legendary performance. Nope. They unified our city of Louisville while the world was watching.
* Photos by Jason Ashcraft & Zach Everson
*Videos courtesy of American Express "Unstaged" Concert Series. The My Morning Jacket show represented the fifth installment of the series which has featured Arcade Fire, John Legend & The Roots, Sugarland & Duran Duran.
** Jason Ashcraft is a freelance music writer who focuses on Kentucky's original music scene. Visit his blog at LouisvilleScuttlebutt.com or you scan this QR code on your smart phone to view the mobile site: