My Morning Jacket are one of those bands that are written off too soon. After their preliminary masterpiece “Z” (2005), the Americans always seemed to be looking for a new style. The hobbled soul experiment “Evil Urges” (2008) was followed by the downright confident “Circuital” (2011) and the wonderful psychedelic rock ventures “Waterfall I and II” (2015/2020), all of which together are nostalgic and incorrigible guitar rock -provided a lot of fodder for lovers, but overall seemed like artistic stagnation. The innovators of alternative rock just trampled well-trodden paths.
With the self-titled album released last year, however, My Morning Jacket reminded us that the musicians, inspired by religious ecstasy and stadium rock poses, can do one thing like few others: brag really well. And this self-confidence gets Jim James and his colleagues from the stage.
My Morning Jacket tour Europe far too seldom
In a world where rock music is only played in quotation marks (and both the easy-going like Pearl Jam and the most delicate like Wilco take this to heart), My Morning Jacket are one of the best live guitar bands money can buy. They draw their power from light-handed riffs, annoying rhythm passages, the sustained, sinewy vocals of Jim James (who keeps bawling wildly into the audience, but not angrily, but rather with cathartic fervor) and the cleverness not to accept all the absorbed references much to make appear as such.
It has to be said: It’s a pity that My Morning Jacket stayed away from Europe for so many years. In 2011 they played a fantastic set at Festsaal Kreuzberg in Berlin. Here they smashed their epic guitar fringes with metal volume into a location that seemed like a matchbox for the muscularity of the group. They had some sympathy for drummer Patrick Hallahan, who found himself crammed into the last corner – while singer James had to reduce his otherwise generously chosen range of motion to a few steps.
For stay-at-homes and the reviled listeners in and around Germany, who most recently enjoyed seeing My Morning Jacket live at Lollapalooza 2015 in Berlin, there is now a series of concert recordings entitled “Mmj Live”. Two records, available on vinyl and digital, have been released so far. One features a gig from the 2015 “Waterfall” tour, the other immortalizes a lavish performance at Chicago’s Auditorium Theater in 2021.
One breaker after the next
Above all, the Chicago gig is recommended with its crystal-clear, rushing sound and marks a real highlight in the band’s work after the memorable live double album “Okonokos”. Also because the musical development of My Morning Jacket over the last few years can be felt physically here.
How one jumps back and forth between the different albums here; how the glistening “Victory Dance” sets the tone after just a few minutes as an opener with glamor and glory; how “If All Else Fails” slides from West Coast to East Coast and back again; how the brooding saxophone beats in “Magic Bullet” outline the band’s new powerful, self-confident style, which allows past and future experiments to flow admirably into one another; like above all what is perhaps the band’s best song, which culminates in a breakneck finale that “Dondante” hardly wants to dry up (compare the version on mmj live Volume 1, which is only half a decade away) – that is simply stunning. You have to search hard to find a live recording of a concert from recent years that is just as gripping.
Sure, it all has a little too much fat on it, it’s not safe from pathos and muckerism. But My Morning Jacket are so self-confident in using their guitar zeal that after a little more than two hours their ears are also glowing on the record player at home. Perhaps the band will soon finally be able to prove this ability again on German stages.