My Morning Jacket at Red Rocks (Gallery + Review)
photos and review by Stephen Bloch
This past weekend, My Morning Jacket made a triumphant return to the stage with two shows at the Shangri-La of outdoor venues, Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO. The band members had been doing their own thing for roughly the last 18 months, but it was clear that their connections were as strong as ever.
Both nights showcased material from each their albums without a single cover song being played (though there were snippets from The Beatles and Bill Withers included in the epic “Steam Engine” on Saturday). There clearly was a palpable confidence in their own material, allowing them to take their tried-and-true songs in different directions with varying arrangements and jams. They placed the epic bookends of “Dondante” and “Steam Engine” in their Friday and Saturday shows, respectively, each taking attendees on sonic and visual journeys like none other. MMJ gave both casual and hardcore fans exactly what they wanted: robust shows that spanned their entire catalog, from the now 20-year-old Tennessee Fire to their most recent release, 2015’s The Waterfall.
It’s hard to accurately depict the feel that each show had. While Friday’s show might have been more tightly organized—aside from the 20-plus-minute “Dondante”—Saturday’s show was more dark, brooding, and jammy. That said, Saturday featured welcome levity from front man Jim James, who showcased some of his unique storytelling. Both shows had free-flowing energy and synchronicity between bandmates James, Carl Broemel, Bo Koster, Tom Blankenship, and Patrick Hallahan. It was as if their ties got stronger while they were out doing their own projects. A common scene was Broemel, James, and Blankenship gathering around to pray and play with their backs to the crowd as they worshipped the drum god that is Hallahan.
It’s impossible to pick highlights aside from the “bookends,” but staples such as the “Victory Dance” opener, “Easy Morning Rebel,” and “Low Down” roped everyone in. Friday’s show definitely had a more downtempo feel at the tail-end of the set, but James et al provided an ample gut check for what many would experience on Saturday with a full-on face-melting “Run Thru.”
While Friday’s chilled-out show was stellar in all respects, Saturday proved to be even more spine tingling and moving from the very outset. From the opening bass riff of “Wordless Chorus” until set closer “Phone Went West,” the band seemed to want to engage in both push and pull, taking patrons on a wild ride. With no repeats from Friday, they went deep into their catalog with rarities “Evelyn is not Real” and “Picture of You,” but then they jumped back into more the more animated cuts from their three most recent releases Evil Urges, Circuital, and The Waterfall. “Evil Urges” and “Tropics” seemed to create a swell within the crowd, leading into the five-song encore that finished with the triumvirate of “Highly Suspicious,” “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2” and mainstay run-closer “One Big Holiday.” My Morning Jacket are definitely back with a bang.