In the middle of his band's two-and-a-half hour set at the Riverside Theater Thursday night, My Morning Jacket's Jim James took a moment to express his passion of playing the venue - but with an added intergalactic twist.
"It reminds me of 2001: A Space Odyssey," James told the crowd about the theater, explaining that the theater's features reminded him of the room at the end of the world in the movie.
While that may seem far-fetched, My Morning Jacket has always kept their sights high, soaring ever higher into the music hemisphere with their sound, creating a live show that's been hailed as one of the best today. Playing in front of a screen with a giant metallic robot-like eye from their recent album, "Circuital," the band used that inspiration as they bounced from song to song forming an epic odyssey into their musical world.
A good portion of that odyssey was sharing the aforementioned album, in addition to fan favorites like "Worldless Chorus" and deeper cuts. With a sound that pulls from psychedelia, roots-rock and jam-band, among a range of other things, the band presented an ever-shifting soundscape through the night with faster past pumpers and the slower and more intimate songs. It jumps to a new level when added with Jim James hypnotic and harmony-drenched tenor and his ability to be a energetic force as a front man.
The set began with the aptly titled "Victory Dance," which escalated into fiery guitars and some victory dancing from James. "Circuital" followed suit and "Worldless Chorus" found James playful doing a stage slide. Many of the band's songs lend nicely to jamming on, like "Off the Record" escalating into a sea of flashing lights and passionate playing by everyone in the band.
The band also has a knack for catchy, sometimes anthem-like, songs like "Gideon," "First Light" (which featured some fantastic saxophone playing), "Holdin' Onto Black Metal" and "One Big Holiday," which certainly got the crowd fired up and feeding off the band's headlong approach into songs. James clearly was having fun, jumping up and down, strutting and racing across the stage, wailing his hands and hair around and holding up his guitar above his head in triumph after long jams.
As the set grew on the band seem to grow more and more at home as they kept up the energy and emotion, even in slower ones like "Slow Slow." That built up into the encore, which started with a free-for-all guitar clinic of "Dondante." While "Evil Urges" came out to mixed reviews, one of the songs that stands out is the somewhat funky and psychedelic beat of "Touch Me I'm Going to Scream." Upon the first notes of "One Big Holiday" both band and crowd were in full elation, not wanting to come down.
Sometimes it's tough to be an opener, but not when you're Daniel Martin Moore. The singer/songwriter provided an eye-opening set with a full band of intimate, country/folk tinged songs, including many from his recent album "In the Cool of the Day." Moore's abilities have recently caught my attention, with his strong voice and ability to create a powerfully emotional tune. (It'll certainly be interesting to see him in a much smaller venue when he returns during Radio Summer Camp.)
In addition, he also played a solo version of "Flyrock Blues" (off of his collaboration last year with Ben Sollee and which was produced by Jim James), which found a stripped-down and beautiful version of the song. Throughout his set, members of My Morning Jacket came out to join Moore for a number of songs until, last but not least, James came out to a loud ovation. He promptly slid a banjo over his shoulders and joined Moore for an amazing rendition of the emotional "Sweet Marie" and the banjo-led and clap-along "Dark Road," both from Moore's new album. The combination of Moore and James singing was something very special and really complemented each other.
James returned the favor later when he called Moore out to sing on "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)," providing one of most unforgettable moments of the night. Collaborations are always a special thing, especially when they bring out the best in new and established artists alike. Or in other words, it's always great when one odyssey leads to another.