Throughout the day, the scattered rain seemed to make every person excited to see My Morning Jacket perform at the Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park grow more and more nervous. However, the skies cleared in the afternoon and set the scene for a massively successful start to the summer concert season for the WTTS listener. There was a perfect chill in the air that made everyone instantly comfortable as soon as they took their place to watch the legendary band.
Thursday, May 26th, My Morning Jacket played a WTTS show with The Barr Brothers to an eager and faithful audience. The 5-piece band consisted of keys, drums, bass, and two guitars, one of which being played by the impeccable Jim James. The band formed in 1998 and began attracting massive audiences throughout the 2000s due to both their incredible live shows and experimental records. The entire band has been involved in an impressive amount of side projects, but always comes back together to make their music (like their most recent, “The Waterfall” in 2015).
Thursday night, Jim James emerged on stage looking like an actual superhero. His signature rock ‘n’ roll mane blowing in the wind, his cape of artwork, and his arms raised in the air made the audience believe he might actually take flight; He’s got that kind of presence. My Morning Jacket opened the evening with “Compound Fracture” followed by “The Way That He Sings.”
During “I’m Amazed” early in the set, the audience marched along as if pledging their allegiance to My Morning Jacket, summertime, Indianapolis, or a combination of all three. Jim James really became Jim James with the guitar solo on “War Begun,” letting the high notes ring throughout the city. It sounded like a Slayer riff served on a bed of plush jam-band grooves. The following song, “Spring (Among The Living)” began with spooky howling while the entire audience raised their hands in unison like a battle cry from their fearless leader. A droning guitar lick sets in with Jim James’ deep, dark voice and suddenly they’re the most mature, sticky garage band these Hoosiers had ever seen.
Other highlights of the night included “Off The Record,” “State Of The Art (A.E.I.O.U.), and “Wonderful (The Way I Feel),” in which Jim James played the song acoustic and solo. The audience paid attention like it was the State Of The Union Address. He was very clearly addressing his audience for one of the most gently uplifting songs in their repertoire.
Carl Broemer, the other guitarist (besides James) in the band who was named one of Rolling Stone’s “20 New Guitar Gods”, is actually from the north side of Indianapolis. He sang lead vocal on “Carried Away” so he and James’ harmonies were suddenly backward and for the My Morning Jacket fan it was hauntingly beautiful. Then, the song turned into the biggest jam of the night. It was hard to put a finger on what the changes were from measure to measure, but they were very much present and kept the trusting audience moving through the entire session.
My Morning Jacket closes the set with Parts 1 & 2 of “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream.” It is important to note that at this point in the evening (the end of the show) Jim James has not spoken once. No one has spoken from the stage. The entire performance flowed from song to song flawlessly in only the way that a trusting audience and musical talent like My Morning Jacket’s could make successful.
The band returned for an encore of “Steam Engine,” “Victory Dance,” “Anytime,” and “One Big Holiday.” During “Steam Engine,” Broemer played a super distorted saxophone that sounds like an electric guitar made out of brass. Eventually, James’ guitar and Broemer’s saxophone played notes in harmony followed by a more traditional, yet mind-blowing saxophone solo. Then…Jim James finally spoke:
“I’m gonna let you in on a little secret…That is Carl. And do you know where he came out on this earth?…Right the (expletive) here.” He went on to thank the crowd for spending the evening with them and that any place Carl is from, he loves it there. The audience cheered in an unspoken “We love you, too” as the rest of the encore took place. When My Morning Jacket exited the stage after the encore, Jim James needn’t say a word. He simply blew the audience kisses using his entire wingspan and the lawn was filled with love.
Photos by Caitlin Laird Photography