My Morning Jacket (Mostly) Beats Oppressive Heat at Jacobs Pavilion Concert

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ERIC HEISIG
Photo by Eric Heisig

More than two decades into its career, My Morning Jacket seems to have its live formula down.

Nearly every song the Louisville rock band played, regardless of how quiet or slow it began, builds to a crescendo before a crashing finish. And for the most part, it works, as evidenced by the band’s performance Tuesday night at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica.

But as the set reached the end of its 2-hour, 15-minute set, the formula became a bit repetitive and it seemed like the energy the quintet sustained for so long started to flag. I’m going to chalk it up to the oppressive heat, which only dipped below 90 degrees an hour into the show.

The indie-folk-psychedelic-etc. outfit’s performance, which kicked off a string of summer tour dates in support of last year’s self-titled album, was its first in five years. And while much in the city and nation has changed (new mayor, new president, years-old pandemic), the band remained reassuringly familiar, sounding pretty similar to the last time it swung through Northeast Ohio as it worked through an 18-song set pulling from its two decade-plus career.

Lead singer and guitarist Jim James remains a transfixing frontman, effortlessly taking on roles of guitar hero, caped shaman, crooner and electronic tinkerer. In another life, he could have been a cult leader … though perhaps one of the good ones.

But My Morning Jacket’s show confirmed that James - who has undertaken myriad solo outings and side projects in recent years - is never stronger than he is with his bandmates complementing his distinctive tenor. Already anthemic songs like “Off the Record,” “One Big Holiday” and “Phone Went West” were further amped up and stretched out with interplay between all five members. Big props go to drummer Patrick Callahan, whose drum style is a mix between John Bonham and Animal from The Muppets.

James also shouted out keyboardist and Lakewood native Bo Koster after he took a solo during the soft-rock-by-way-of-Pink-Floyd tune “Feel You.” And the harmonies on “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)” were as effective as any shredding by James and fellow guitarist Carl Broemel. While I had hoped for a bit more variety in the performance, the band nevertheless remains a powerful live force.

It was only when the band reached “Mahgeetah,” from 2003’s It Still Moves, that the musicians looked and sounded somewhat drained. Still plenty potent, the song nevertheless lacked something.

Again, I’m blaming the heat. Better get used to it. It’s going to be a scorcher of a summer.

Opening the show was indie musician Indigo De Souza, touring behind a good album, Any Shape You Take, that was released last year. She and her backing trio ably made their way through a 40-minute set, giving space for De Souza's at times entrancing voice.

Setlist (courtesy of setlist.fm and my own recollection):

1. Regularly Scheduled Programming
2. Off the Record
3. Spring (Among the Living)
4. Lay Low
5. Feel You
6. Least Expected
7. Wasted
8. Wordless Chorus
9. Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 2
10. Wonderful (The Way I Feel)
11. Victory Dance
12. Circuital
13. Never in the Real World
14. One Big Holiday

Encore:

15. In Color
16. Holdin on to Black Metal
17. Phone Went West
18. Mahgeetah
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