Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Alpharetta hosted not one but two rising artists on the modern rock scene this evening in headliner My Morning Jacket and opener Neko Case. My Morning Jacket is touring on their May release ‘Circuital’ which is a full bodied beauty. This is easily one of their strongest and most adventurous works to date. Their summer tour broke ground in their hometown of Louisville May 31, and they haven’t left the road since. The band’s Atlanta stop marked the home stretch of their North American leg before they make the jump to Europe. They certainly didn’t exhaust their mojo on the road as MMJ dug through the back catalog for hidden gems to couple with fan favorites in this 2-hour jam fest.
Neko Case and company opened the evening promptly at 7:30. She’s a pretty high profile opener since she was filling out the Cobb Energy Center on her own when she was in town a couple years back. It does make me question how the opening band is choosen to begin with. I mean Neko and MMJ are both modern/indie rock staples, but I wouldn’t necessarily say they have complementary fanbases.
Case displayed her usual soaring vocals as she worked through select songs from ‘Middle Cyclone’ and ‘Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.’ During her 45 minute set, she featured two new tracks that were very characteristic of her sound. Overall, it was a good set and the only complaint I can levy is on the My Morning Jacket faithful, many of whom seemed more focused on their respective conversations than on Neko’s set. The fiery haired lady is a rare talent. Give her the respect she deserves.
After an hour plus stage shuffling, Jim James and his brothers in instruments welcomed the crowd with a one-two punch off of ‘Circuital,’ playing opening tracks ‘Victory Dance’ and the album’s title track to open the evening. James came equipped with a vocal sampler strung around his neck for ‘Victory Dance’ to throw in the song’s patented sonic effects.
The band wanted to show off their new baby and played ‘Circuital’ almost cover to cover. The tracks were quite flavorful live, and My Morning Jacket used the set as an open-ended jam sessions, allowing the songs to escape the boundaries they are pinned to on the album. That being said, there was certainly no neglect paid to their previous albums. They spread the wealth around sampling from ‘Z,’ ‘Evil Urges,’ ‘It Still Moves’ and even pulled ‘Cobra’ off of 2002s ‘Chocolate and Ice EP.’ It was like their setlist was a big fruit platter they couldn’t get enough of. Neko Case joined for the encore to duet a cover of Stevie Nick’s ‘Stop Draggin My Heart Around’ with Jim James. If Mrs. Case ever tires of her collaborative efforts with the New Pornographers, I think I may she may have a new musical playmate in James. ‘Islands in the Stream’ anyone?
The crowd was definitely plugged in to My Morning Jacket’s set. The heavily college skewed audience was grooving through the wafts of pot and random burst of glow sticks spraying out into the audience. The crowd watching was quite interesting from the guy sporting the polar bear hoodie to the couple doing the foxtrot to ‘Slow Slow Tune.’ Truthfully when lead singer Jim James mounts the stage following the encore proudly wearing a cape shouldn’t that tell you everything you need to know about the band’s followers? Then again, maybe the cape is simply James’ way of nudging the band’s into the bounds of prog rock.
My Morning Jacket put on a very good set. They brought a high level of energy and the sonic screaming guitars to the Atlanta crowd. I think its safe to say most left the venue brimming with satisfaction from seeing one of the best touring bands work their considerable magic. Best of luck in Europe boys, and stay away from those festivals with wobbly stages.
MY MORNING JACKET SETLIST
Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Alpharetta, GA | August 20, 2011
You Wanna Freak Out
Off the Record
Outta My System
Smokin from Shootin
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Part 2
Slow Slow Tune
Holdin on to Black Metal
The Day is Coming
Stop Draggin My Heart Around (w/ Neko Case)
One Big Holiday