My Morning Jacket and Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings
Better than…any ride at Universal Studios.
Past the gauntlet of Universal City Walk with its seizure-inducing lights, blaring Christmas pop remixes, and downright oppressive wafts of popcorn and cologne, there was a damn fine show last night in the dimly lit confines of the Gibson Ampitheatre.
One couldn't help but notice that right next to an entire neon village dedicated to selling you things based on current marketing trends, two bands performed that have never taken any notice of current musical trends at all. Both of them tapping into a wealth of pure organic human emotion, nothing prepackaged or preprogrammed or researched.
Up first was the formidable funk soul powerhouse Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. Due to an unfortunate set-time of 7:45 p.m., the ampitheatre had only a smattering of people who had fought the rush hour traffic early. As soon as Jones took the stage one couldn't help pitying those who were still stuck in their cars or drinking beer outside.
In a black fringed dress with silver sandals strapped to her shoes, Ms Jones commanded your attention from the moment she grabbed the microphone. With a voice ten times her size, she ran the gamut of a relationship issues from seduction to cheating to that uncertain feeling when you're not sure if your lover really loves you back.
Shimmying all over the stage, Ms Jones grabbed one shy young man from out of the crowd and pulled him on stage and serenaded him with “Are You Going To Give It Back.” The poor baffled thing just stood there with his hands on his hips, unsure of what to do next, as she tried to dance with him. Eventually either out of boredom or empathy she threw him back. The set was short, sharp, and tightly wound with no room for banter. The sharply dressed Dap-Kings were on stage just long enough to win the reluctant crowd over and then they vanished into the darkness.
A cloud of blue tinted smoke covered the stage as My Morning Jacket went on at nine. The five piece from Kentucky received a warm welcome from the crowd as they launched into a set that included everything from Americana to folk to reggae to gospel to soul to larger than life rock n' roll.
Absorbing genres like a sponge, My Morning Jacket manages to constantly reinvent itself with every album while still remaining recognizably themselves. When Jim James opens his mouth and let's loose his angelic iconic voice there is no doubt what band it is.
Like an eccentric loveable uncle Jim James bounced around the stage, often putting towels on his head or draping himself in a blue cape. Once upon a time he was a fairly shy frontman who hid behind a curtain of hair, but now he seems to relish the job and his curls are purely to emphasize his head banging.
He even spoke about quitting the guitar so he could have more “face time” with his beautiful audience, which would truly be a tragedy because the romance between his guitar and lead guitarist Carl Bromel's is one for the ages. It is that love story that builds their quiet psychedelic ramblings into barn burning, heart stopping romps, held back from the brink of insanity by the powerful arms of drummer Patrick Hallahan.
The evening ended with an encore that My Morning Jacket to flex their muscles and show their rang, from the mystical “Wordless Chorus” to the Prince-influenced dance number “Highly Suspicious” to the gospel funk of “Holding on To Black Metal” and finally the Americana jaw dropper “One Big Holiday.” They are a testament to what can happen when you throw out the playbook and take risks.
The crowd: On the granola crunchy hippie side of hipster.
Personal Bias: I own all of My Morning Jacket's albums.
Random Notebook Dump: Jim James is bringing out the big V. Things just got serious.
Set list below:
Outta My System
It Beats 4 U
Off The Record
Phone Went West
Evelyn Is Not Real
Smokin' From Shootin'
The Day Is Coming
Holding On To Black Metal
One Big Holiday