Monday’s Artpark show was a transcendent, blissful, celebratory affair
A friend sent me a text this morning, and I read it while still indulging in the afterglow of Monday’s sublime My Morning Jacket (with Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe) show at Artpark.
“What a show,” he wrote. “I noticed the stunned look on your face on the way out.”
That stunned look is still plastered across my visage as I write this.
It’s become a bit trite to label fiery gigs as “face-melters,” perhaps, but there can be no doubt that My Morning Jacket melted my face and rearranged my musical cosmos with their 20-song set.
Tom Blankenship and Jim James of My Morning Jacket at Artpark on 6/26/23 (Photo by Kim Miers)
It’s a strange magic that vocalist/guitarist Jim James, bassist Tom Blankenship, guitarist/vocalist Carl Broemel, keyboardist/vocalist Bo Koster and drummer Patrick Hallahan summon and celebrate, one born of the band’s indelible hybridization of Americana, roots music, alternative rock, twisted funk and psychedelic stylings.
That magic was present from the get-go at Artpark, as the band ambled onto the stage and eased into “War Begun,” from their 1999 debut The Tennessee Fire. By halfway through the opener, the dark clouds over Artpark had given way to a gorgeous skyscape, and my jaw was hanging open, as James and Broemel sculpted a slow-burning guitar improvisation over the tune’s coda. “I Will Sing You Songs,” from 2003’s It Still Moves, followed, and built with aching restraint to a gorgeous crescendo, before collapsing into the title tune from 2011’s Curcuital, which soared on the strength of some deliciously Neil Young-ish soloing from Broemel.
Jim James of My Morning Jacket at Artpark 6/26/23 (Photo by Kim Miers)
Here, in abundance, was a representation of one of the evening’s main themes – the glory of the guitar solo, something that many have decried as a lost art, but a prime mover in the MMJ universe. (Thank god!) It would not be accurate to call MMJ a “jam band” – they’re more of an alternative rock band that can improvise with the best of them. But the manner in which they explore the implications of their compositions by taking them on a stroll through the outer reaches of the cosmos – well, that’s something that makes the band extremely attractive to jam band fans. When MMJ is in full flight, they have few peers. And man were they ever in flight by the time they got to jubilant wall-of-sound that was “One Big Holiday,” James indulging his gorgeously soulful high tenor, and then letting his massive mane of hair fly like a freak flag during one of the evening’s most incisive guitar solos.
L to R: Carl Broemel, Tom Blankenship and Bo Koster of My Morning Jacket at Artpark 6/26/23 (Photo by Kim Miers)
The set concluded with a trio of barn-burners – the reggae-inflected “Off the Record,” the spacious psychedelic funk of “Evil Urges,” and the twisted R&B and southern soul of “Wordless Chorus” – before the band returned for a steaming encore comprised of a “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream” parts I and II sandwich, with a “Spring (Among the Living)” in the middle.
What an incredible show. Is it any wonder I can’t wipe this stunned look off of my face?
MMJ in full flight at Artpark 6/26/23 (Photo by Kim Miers)
My Morning Jacket
Artpark, Lewiston, NY
I Will Sing You Songs
Love Love Love
Never in the Real World
One Big Holiday
Death Is the Easy Way
If All Else Fails
Off the Record
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 1
Spring (Among the Living)
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2
My Morning Jacket at Artpark on 6/26/23 (Photo by Kim Miers)