- Last Updated: 10:39 AM, August 21, 2012
- Posted: 10:58 PM, August 20, 2012
MY MORNING JACKET
About 40 minutes into My Morning Jacket’s 2 1/2-hour show Sunday night at Williamsburg Park, a man in his late 30s was overheard telling his date, “They’re more mellow than a jam band.”
The guy had a point. The Louisville, Ky., rock quintet settled in for a mix of old and new songs that veered on the sleepy side, particularly if you weren’t already a die-hard. And make no mistake: My Morning Jacket’s current “Spontaneous Curation” tour was made for die-hards, by die-hards. The summer run’s set lists are decided in part by fan club members, who vote on the opening songs and encores for each show.
The winners on Sunday included a few semi-obscurities: “The Dark,” from 1999, one of MMJ’s earliest (and lesser-played) songs, opened the set, and other early rarities, such as “War Begun” and “Phone Went West,” dotted it. The encore began with frontman Jim James, alone and acoustic, doing the delicate ballad “I Will Be There When You Die” — another seldom-heard one.
Musically, MMJ is perfect for people whose taste in rock is firmly rooted in the mid-’70s. The audience was mostly 30s and up: lots of ex-frat guys-turned-professionals, sprinkled with some post-hippie types. It was a friendly crowd that was clearly locked in with the group and ready to take on some curveballs, such as a beat-box pulse on “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream, Part 2.” At the end of the song, James playfully tweaked the beat till it reached epileptic speed, then did a skittering cross-stage dance, before exiting to close out the main set.
But things remained, for the most part, comfortably epic in scope. The best moments of the show were the ones that concentrated on six-string interaction. “Run Thru,” which “Rolling Stone” named one of its Top 100 guitar songs in 2008, went from dreamy and Hendrix-like to fast and riffy, then back to slow rising and quasi-majestic.
James was a jovial presence, with a pleasant voice (think Jackson Browne with a little extra phlegm), a Renaissance fair-style blue cape and long blond hair that he got a lot of visual mileage from by tossing it back and forth while rocking out to his own solos on the dramatic, piano-led “Lay Low.” James and guitarist Carl Broemel, who doubles on saxophone, even played shameless guitar harmonies — guitarmonies — together on that one. Talk about mellow.