My Morning Jacket bring some sweet southern fuzz to Somerset House

Somerset House Series 2011 review

By Nick Hagan | Published: Fri 22nd Jul 2011

Somerset House Series 2011 - My Morning Jacket
Photo credit: Nick Hagan

Somerset House Series 2011

Thursday 7th to Sunday 17th July 2011
Somerset House, The Strand, London, WC1 1LA, England MAP
from £20 to £35 per day depending on the event

Shaggy Kentuckians My Morning Jacket couldn't look more out of place in the stately courtyard of London's Somerset House tonight; frontman Jim James in particular is strikingly reminiscent of the Big Lebowski's Dude, even sporting a coat that looks a bit like a dressing gown. Yet the prospect of an outdoor performance from these soulful noiseniks tonight is still entirely tantalising, even if we're faced with a climate befitting the UK rather than US south.

My Morning Jacket
'Victory Dance' is a pleasant enough slow-burner to get the wheels turning, before the cheeky yet tender tones of the title track from new LP 'Circuital' gets feet tapping.

Chit-chat is kept fairly minimal this evening as the band carve out a show of varying quality; the highs are positively astronomical, as with the euphoric bellow of 'Gideon', while things lose their edge in the middle somewhat with the slower tracks.

The likes of 'Slow Slow Tune', 'The Way That He Sings' and later 'Smoking From Shooting' are nice enough in their blissed-out, southern-fried manner, but ultimately can't compete with the band's adrenalised pop peaks, making for a patchwork of the excellent and the distinctly average.

My Morning Jacket
'Off The Record' is, suitably, much better live than on wax, the usually tedious guitar breakdown at the song's end reconfigured and completely energised with some amazing showboating from James and lead guitarist Carl Broemel.

It's the end of the set that really impresses, however. First there's the electro blips and hums of the magnificent 'Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt 2', which morphs effortlessly into a deviant disco strutter that captures the quirky pop angle of My Morning Jacket at their very best.

By this point darkness has seeped in, the courtyard bathed in deep blue light and ripe with atmosphere. Which makes the melancholy, blues-soaked beauty of 'Dondante' all the more stunning; the song is the perfect canvas for James' mix of rich drawl and lip-quivering falsetto as he nails his vocals with miraculous precision. Already a masterpiece on record, in the flesh the track transcends its own sonic majesty to become something else altogether, dragged out to exhaustive length but nonetheless utterly mesmerising.

It even goes a bit Pink Floyd at one moment, as Broemel brings out a sax, silhouetted against the warm glow emanating from the stage. Low frequency rumblings fill our ears, reminding us just how interesting MMJ's sound can be when they really hit their stride.

The encore can't quite live up to such a climax at first, but 'Holdin' Onto Black Metal' brings it back to boiling point, its funky orchestral vibe elevating it among the ranks of the band's best.

My Morning Jacket
Then it's time for the sublime 'One Big Holiday' to take us all the way back to the band's fuzzy rock roots, a cacophony of duelling guitar loops proving simply spellbinding. Again, it throbs with an energy live that it never quite communicates on record, and provides a blinding closer to a set punctuated by moments of absolute genius.
review by: Nick Hagan

photos by: Nick Hagan

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