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Concert Reviews:
My Morning Jacket Straps On A Winner At Fillmore

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, October 5, 2008

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DETROIT -- It's fodder for argument, of course, but it's quite possible nobody is playing better rock 'n' roll shows these days than My Morning Jacket.

On the back of a career album, this year's "Evil Urges," the Louisville quintet is trolling the country playing robust, energetic and fully realized shows -- like Saturday night's (Oct. 4) , 23-songs, two-hour and 25-minute exposition at the Fillmore Detroit -- with a length and stylistic breadth that leaves audiences both sated and wanting even more. That's a rarefied achievement, but MMJ merits mention next to fellow kings of the rock road such as Bruce Springsteen, U2, Southern forebears such as the Allman Brothers Band and "jam band" progenitors the Grateful Dead.

What was clear from the outset on Saturday was that nobody at the Fillmore was going to get bored easily as MMJ covered a wide musical terrain from the get-go. With a pair of eyeballs staring out from a backdrop "Evil Urges' " title track roared with its series of tempo shifts, followed by the airy ambience of "Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 1" -- which frontman Jim James sang sans guitar, sporting a cape -- and the reggae groove of "Off the Record," which was spiced by some furious guitar trades between James and Carl Broemel.

Things didn't let up from that breathless barrage, either, as MMJ swept through nine selection from "Evil Urges" along with epic, extended renditions of "Smokin' From Shootin' " and "Run Thru," gentler fare such as "It Beats U," "Thank You Too!," "Librarian" and a solo James version of "Bermuda Highway," and "hits" such as "Mahgeetah" and the show-closing "One Big Holiday." The difference between MMJ and its jam band cousins is that despite its improvisational bent, the quintet is tight, never lapsing into the studied looseness that's so much a part of the scene. And that applied across the board, to the sinewy rock of "Aluminum Park," the grinning disco-funk of "Highly Suspicious" -- which had the mostly T-shirted and hirsute crowd boogeying like "Saturday Night Fever" extras -- and the long-winded "Anytime," with an intricate light show that matched the group twist for turn.

James also won over the Fillmore faithful with brief but heavily Detroit-centric comments, including a reminiscence about ice skating at Campus Martius Park during MMJ's last visit and saluting the city for "a monopoly on a lot of the world's greatest music." On Saturday, however, James and his band did a fine job of stepping up to that standard.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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