Music studios create magic -- that much we know. However, when a band is able to convert its supersized amphitheater show into 250-person capacity venue (which is smaller than The Troubadour FYI), that's what makes this night more special than the average gig. (That and the $125 price tag).
And that's what the world-famous Louisville-based My Morning Jacket did last night at special KCRW members only (which DID include an open bar, which is always appreciated and a major plus for everyone in attendance) gig at the legendary recording studio the Village, which has recorded the awesome Pink Floyd and Bob Dylan as well as the unawesome Eagles.
After a stirring intro by KCRW music honcho Jason Bentley, the band hammered out a set of tunes from their three-week-old, critically acclaimed record Circuital. And though these songs sound a bit different than what some may have expected from the veteran outfit, they're unmistakably MMJ. Hipsters, journalists, industry peeps, scribes, diehard fans and an assortment of other characters made for an eclectic crowd that managed to comfortably squeeze into the West L.A. studio.
The band managed to be locked in without feeling the need to overcompensate due to the intimacy of the venue. Whether it was frontman Jim James' wailing vocals or guitarist Carl Broemel's bluesy riffs (and groovy pedal steel) or drummer Patrick Hallahan's forceful drumming, the band treated the new tunes like they were familiar old friends, allowing for fans to feel comfortable singing and bobbing their heads.
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Songs like the album's title track, the anthemic "The Day Is Coming" and the folky, James-driven "Wonderful," sounded better live than recorded and with good explanation: the band recorded everything on tape and live -- which may not make for the best listen on a compact disc, but at a gig, sounds absolutely terrific.
Naturally, the song that elicited the biggest reaction was "One Big Holiday," which managed to engage the masses, yet felt comfortably at home in such a small space. James' vocals in addition to Broemel's familiar riffs had the crowd singing along to the familiar tune, reacting like they'd heard the song a thousand times -- which they very well may have -- yet treating it like it was their first time hearing it.
It's not easy for bands with the rabid fan base, critical pedigree and overall awesomeness of My Morning Jacket to downsize their hours-long live show into a 75-minute gig in a room at a recording studio, but the band managed to do just fine. Though the atmosphere could have been stuffy and snobby, James and company managed to deliver a set that introduced the new tunes in an intimate atmosphere without sounding forced.
As the crowd wobbled out and towards their motor vehicles -- most likely due to the bartenders serving Kentucky Lemonade by the end of the night -- many remarked how incredible the band sounded and expressed their excitement for tonight's gig at the Pantages. My Morning Jacket put everyone on alert: despite a three-year absence from recording, they still can write great tunes with the best of 'em. Their live show is not something to be missed.