My Morning Jacket Cranks Up the Amps for Hard Rocking State Theatre Show

Concert Review

by

1 comment
In a recent interview, My Morning Jacket keyboardist Bo Koster said the band has some 90 songs at its disposal. He talked about how when the group recently played a three-night stand in Mexico, it didn’t repeat a single song. That automatically elevates the Louisville-based band to classic rock status and is particularly impressive when you consider most bands will play the same 20 or so songs night after night. In a particularly loud show last night before a capacity crowd at the State Theatre, My Morning Jacket showed just how deep it can dig into its catalog and just how skilled it’s become at creating a wall of sound.

Led by big-voiced singer-guitarist Jim James, the band started performing behind a giant white screen as it launched into “Believe (Nobody Knows),” the proggy opening number from its latest album, The Waterfall. With its upper-register vocals, the song sounded a bit like a leftover Yes tune from the ’70s. Not that James in any way physically resembled Yes singer Jon Anderson. Wearing shades for the entire two-hour concert, the bearded, long-haired singer looked more like Jim Morrison as he sauntered across the stage in a black jacket imprinted with some colorful psychedelic swirls.



As a vocalist, James has few rivals. Throughout the set, which featured about 20 tunes, he regularly showed his range, adopting a gravelly baritone for the final notes of “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)” and slipping into a soulful croon for the ballads “Knot Comes Loose” and “Lowdown,” the latter of which could pass as a slow dance tune at a prom — not that there’s anything wrong with that. With the stage cast in dark blue lights, “Master Plan” sounded particularly vigorous as the band cranked up the guitars and broke into a vigorous jam at the song’s conclusion. Likewise, “Dondante,” the set’s closing number, had the epic feel of Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer” as the song, set to the pace of a waltz, started slow and finished strong with a jam that included some wailing saxophone riffs.

The encore included an acoustic rendition of “Hillside Song,” a Dylan-esque number that once again allowed James to show off his vocal prowess. His crisp vocals silenced the audience and provided a nice bit of respite from the deafening loud electric guitar-oriented rawk that the band had just defiantly laid down. One quibble — the dimly lit stage and the lack of any real banter (outside of acknowledging that playing in Cleveland was “a real treat” since Koster is a native, James rarely engaged the audience) — kept the band at a bit of a distance from the worshipful patrons, most of whom were on their feet for the entire concert. Hard-hitting drummer Patrick Hallahan, who is a real wonder to watch, by the way, was often more engaging than James and would encourage fans to clap along to the tunes. A little more explicit enthusiasm from James would've gone a long way.


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at news@clevescene.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club


Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.


Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.


Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.