I first saw My Morning Jacket in 2006 while opening for the almighty Pearl Jam. Back then, Mr. Vedder would often come out before the opening bands to play an acoustic song to the early attendees. Being that I never wanted to miss a special song, I got to witness MMJ opening a few dozen times. While watching MMJ play to a few thousand people every night, I quickly grew fond of them and their freewheeling, but tightly wound sets. The band performed like their hair was on fire every night, hammering through classics like “One Big Holiday” and “Golden.”
A few years later I would see my first full MMJ gig in Portland, Maine and it was pure magic. Since, I’ve seen them a bunch and most recently on the summer festival circuit. While their festival performances have been raved about and were unreal at Boston Calling and Gov Ball – there’s nothing quite like a full Jacket show. When the band announced their historic four-night run at The Beacon Theatre, fans from all over the globe rejoiced and flocked to NYC on Thanksgiving week. When they announced they would be not repeating ANY songs throughout the run, our collective minds exploded – the possibilities were endless.
I was lucky enough to catch the last two shows and now sit here with the task of explaining to you all, how impressive they really were. Adjectives like transcendent and mystical immediately come to mind, but that would be a disservice to what actually went down over the 5 hours of music I witnessed. Much like the times I had seen them before, the first of my two shows was classic Jacket – full of extended jams and no breaks. I left that show thinking it was one of the finest performances I had ever seen.
The final show was my turn to photograph, and after three very dark and smoky songs (“Victory Dance,” “Compound Fracture” and “Evil Urges”) I took to my front row seat in front of Jim James and settled in. The set seemed to fly by with versions of “Aluminum Park” and a sublime “They Ran.”
When Jim James says more than a few words, you must listen, so when he explained that the band was feeling emotional from the Paris attacks a few weeks earlier, we felt for them. Asking for a moment of silence at a rock show, is asking for a miracle, but when James asked us to give a moment to all of those who were murdered – you could of cut the air with a knife – everybody sat there, heads bowed for 30 long seconds. They amped up the show with a cover of The Eagles Of Death Metal’s “I Love You All The Time,” whereas the proceeds from the recording would go directly to those affected in Paris. Pure class.
The main set would end with rousing versions of “Smoking From Shooting” and a lengthy “Steam Engine.” The band reappeared and closed out their tour with one of the best encores I’ve ever seen. “Wordless Chorus” was earth moving and had everyone up, hands raised to the sky while singing along. The highly danceable “Touch Me Pt. 2” had us in a delirious state, knowing full well the show was almost over, we danced harder than ever. What happened next is something I still can’t put into words – The super rare “Cobra” was transitioned into a full “Run Thru” which in turn had folks losing their shit. The concert would predictably end with “One Big Holiday” and with many wet eyes and huge smiles, we exited the theatre knowing we just witnessed pure magic.
Article: Shayne Hanley