Blog Archives

Jim James

12/3/16
Denver, CO
Paramount Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
4 Stars
The alchemist’s lab.  I did not expect the massive, manic energy on display here, on stage nor in the audience. I should have — I’ve seen enough My Morning Jacket shows to witness the ease with which this wizard assembles talent and stirs crowds — but I assumed a solo show would be more introspective, more folkie. It was those things but it was mostly a heavy, no-holds-barred rock show. The surprise that took me served me well. I was smitten, falling in love with this man and his music like we were meeting for the first time, like all those Jacket shows around the country had never nestled their way into my guts and heart. Like all great creators, Jim James has a knack for weaving together <em>universes</em>: he collects fellow musicians who compliment and expand the palette inherent in him (the cosmic keyboardist from Twin Limb), presents them in unexpected ways (two drummers!), and uses the brew to embrace and intoxicate his audience. We were drunk — literally, yes, but for sure figuratively — and losing our minds from almost the first note. His latest solo album has yet to work its way into my circuitry, so it’s expected that I got the most joy in hearing older songs like “A New Life” and “State Of The Art (AEIOU)” … but that sentiment must have been common because the place was whipped up in goddam froth by those late-set rippers, heads banging and sweat flying. It felt, for us in the audience, like a brotherhood, borrowed in part by the shared Jacket family, but cemented by this singular talent and the chemistry in which he made us all a part. Setlist

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Sigur Ros

9/27/16
Denver, CO
Ellie Caulkins Opera House
Map of Colorado, USA
4 Stars
A sensory excursion. The music of Sigur Ros transports me to places strange and fertile, miles away from my beige working life; listening to it on headphones amplifies the sensation and wraps it around me like a blanket. Such was the feeling at the tiny, gorgeous Ellie Caulkins Opera House, my first taste of the band live. The venue’s high ceilings and the steep pitch of the balconies created the sense of travelling together in a ship, and the music, all rolling drum beats and guitar tones drawn out with violin bows, — matched the mood. Panes of light and video were placed to the sides, front and rear of the band, absorbing them into the presentation and distorting the audience’s sense of depth. Even the pace of the set — plodding and patient to start, bugging out in the middle, exploding completely to finish — was a journey. By the end the drummer was sweaty, shirtless mess; a tour guide through a trip we were thrilled to experience. Setlist

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Local Natives

9/23/16
Denver, CO
Ogden Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
4 Stars
They don’t suck. Attending this show was a bit of an experiment for me. I loved Local Natives’ debut album and, many years ago, had gotten around to seeing them live while touring their sophomore album Hummingbird. (One of my favorite albums of any year or genre, I believe Hummingbird is without flaw and, if you haven’t heard it, you should stop reading this and seek it out.) The first time I saw them was at an outdoor festival, in the afternoon, in sweltering heat, with a horrible crowd of drunks; the second time was as an opener, in the afternoon, in sweltering heat, with a horrible crowd of hipsters. Both times, they played great, but the crowds HATED them. Was I missing something? Did one of my most favorite bands actually suck and I just wasn’t seeing it? I had to find out, so I jumped at the chance to see them play my local theater, touring behind their terrific third album, as headliners this time. And this time … THE CROWD WENT APE SHIT. It was awesome. We danced like animals, we sang along to every word, we cried. (Really, I saw a girl in the front row crying.) Okay, this is better. These are my people. And the band was charged, generous, filled with energy, happy. Their harmonies were gorgeous, their playing, tight. (The bassist was stoned out of his mind but his playing, too, was tight.) I’ll see them again, confident they don’t suck. Setlist

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Twenty One Pilots

7/12/16
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
4.5 Stars
Well-rehearsed spectacle. I bought tickets to this show as an excuse to introduce my kids to Red Rocks. They love Twenty One Pilots; I only marginally like them, but I like that they don’t cuss in their lyrics, so off we went. I expected lots of wide-eyed tweens and goth teens there in obnoxious groups or leaning away from their dads (like my boys). What I got instead was The Greatest Show On Earth — Magic! Robot dancers! Costume changes! — with the crowd singing along to every word. And it was presented by two cool and earnest young people for a crowd of cool and earnest young people. The show opened with the band — just two guys! — onstage in ski masks. But then a shroud falls over the singer and, a second later, a spotlight reveals the singer on a giant rock 50 feet from the stage! Then the spotlight on the drummer’s kit goes dark and, a second later, the drummer’s on a full kit on the roof of the beer stand! Then they’re playing on a satellite stage in the middle of the crowd surrounded by fans! Something crazy like this was always happening, without interruption to the music. And the guys in the band couldn’t have been more respectful of the fans. They delivered stories about the joy of playing music — from friends’ bedrooms to packed stadiums — and the importance of being true to yourself among others; stuff that sounds cheesy to cynical old concert farts like me but visibly moved the young people in the audience. I could appreciate the message, and I know my kids took the spirit of it home with them. These two guys spent a lot of time crafting an excellent rock show that was unique to the venue and appropriate to the audience. Besides employing a bit more live instrumentation, there wasn’t much more they could have done to please the crowd. I know I loved it. Setlist

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My Morning Jacket

5/28/16
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
4.5 Stars
Weird and unforgettable. The buzz around this show was heady: it was the first of a two-night run on Memorial Day weekend, the holiday enabling many One Big Family members to fly in from all over the country; the deluxe reissue of It Still Moves (in my opinion, the best MMJ album) had just been released the day before and was rumored to be played in its entirety; and original guitarist Johnny Quaid had tweeted that he’d be onstage with his old band for at least part of the shows. After sprinting from early entry to the GA section and securing awesome spots mere feet from the stage — Carl side, of course — my man Brian and I were ready to take it in. Brian’s brothers and a few of his high school friends joined us for a swirling trip through fan favorites and deep cuts from all over the band’s catalog, including a rare spin through “Just One Thing” and a gut-punching “Steam Engine” — both off ISM — that made us euphoric. It was a bizarre and ridiculous set, only the encore showing a bit of predictability (much of it borrowed from the Red Rocks show a year earlier). But even that was amazing, delivering three of the band’s most ass-shakingest tunes — “Highly Suspicious,” “Touch Me Pt. 2” and “Cobra” — in quick succession. A top-five MMJ show, for sure. Setlist

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Foals

4/26/16
Denver, CO
Ogden Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
4 Stars
Another Foals corker. These guys just blow me away every time I see them. They’ve got a no-bullshit approach to their live show — walk out, get playing, chat a bit, keep it moving — but their energy is off the charts. Each man on stage is writhing and jumping and headbanging and swaying and sweating … for two hours. And the songs! They’re rock — even heavy at times — but they’re so, so danceable. A Foals show sees hipsters, club kids, metalheads and mathletes all shaking their asses. This was a great, eclectic crowd, and you could tell the band was loving it. Bonus points to opener Kiev for covering an obscure Paul Simon song, “Can’t Run But,” one of my favorites. Setlist

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My Morning Jacket

10/9/15
Las Vegas, NV
Brooklyn Bowl
Map of Nevada, USA
4 Stars
An awesome blur. This two-show run was … surreal. First, Las Vegas was a weird place to see a hippie band like My Morning Jacket play and, indeed, it was their first time. Second, over the course of two nights and nearly 5 hours of playing Jim and the band spoke to the audience exactly zero times. And third, attendance numbers were low: the upper tier of this (very cool) venue was mostly empty. What all that meant for those in attendance was this: let’s close the doors and commence face melting. And that’s what went down. The Man Brian was with me in the pit up front — we were so close Carl was head-banging his sweat onto us — so we were enveloped in sound once the music started. These were my first shows from The Waterfall tour so I was crawling out of my skin to hear the new stuff and the new stuff was terrific. Plus I got my first “AEIOU” on the second night; what a fuckin’ song. A whole bunch of One Big Holiday-ers were there too so it was great to rock out with familiar faces. Bonus: Tim Showalter’s Strand Of Oaks put in two solid nights of support and made a new fan. Setlist

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Ben Harper

9/15/15
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
4 Stars
heartfelt and raw. Ben Harper has a knack for turning even large venues into intimate spaces. He played most of this show seated, his head down and his lap steel guitar bouncing on his thigh. He may have been deep in concentration but it was successful in drawing the audience into his little circle on the stage. He could make it loud (“Ground On Down”), he could make it quiet (“Another Lonely Day”), he could make it tense (“Touch From Your Lust”), but no matter what he made each person in the crowd feel like they were sitting right next to him. This was never more evident than when he ended the set by stepping to the front of the stage, asking his tech to turn off all the microphones, and delivering a bone-chilling rendition of “Where Could I Go” a cappella. It was an invitation to feel what he felt, hear what he heard, and you could hear a pin drop. Fantastic. Setlist

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Tame Impala

5/30/15
Denver, CO
Ogden Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
4 Stars
Swirly whirly rock. These guys were blowing up around the time they made it to Denver so the little Ogden Theatre was packed. In a few weeks their awesome “Currents” would earn them a Grammy nomination, but for now, they were happy to smoke what must have been tubs full of Colorado green and smile along with fans for a spacey good time. I mean, these guys were so baked they could barely open their eyes or look up from their instruments, but what they lacked in delivery they made up for in creation, building a set of danceable psych rock heavy on synthesized keyboards, effects-laden guitars and trippy visuals (at one point Kevin turned to the backdrop and “played” a projector connected to his guitar). And you really can’t go wrong when you’ve got a song like “Let It Happen” to open with. I loved that and every second that followed, cherishing what would probably be the last time I’d see them in such a small venue. Setlist

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Carnival time One Big Holiday 2

My Morning Jacket

Band Of Horses

The War On Drugs

Dr. Dog

Dawes w/ Conor Oberst

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

1/31/15
Riviera Maya, MX
Hard Rock Hotel
Map of Riviera Maya, Mexico
4.5 Stars
One big family. This was my second time attending this festival curated by and starring My Morning Jacket; a destination event where it’s easy to connect with like-minded friends old and new. I entered a card-carrying member of the coolest tribe of fans I’ve ever had the good fortune of meeting. Although there again with my brother from another mother Brian, the warm familiarity of the host country, the resort, and especially the people, made it a whole new experience. Showtimes would bring the two of us to the rail and we’d know everyone there; hugs and high fives all around. And the music, holy balls. The supporting lineup featured acts broader in range and higher in profile compared to OBH1, and that lead to some awesome collaborations with Jacket. Highlights included The War On Drugs’ Adam Granduciel guesting on Christopher Cross(!) and Bruce Springsteen covers, Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith reprising his New Basement Tapes role with Jim on “Down On The Bottom” and Conor Oberst duetting on “I Will Be There When You Die.” And you don’t realize what some feminine energy does for a band like Jacket until you hear Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso sing and dance during a suite of Bob Marley covers. As for headliners, My Morning Jacket treated fans to three as-yet unheard songs from The Waterfall sprinkled among stellar and punishing sets spanning their entire career, and Band Of Horses played an afternoon acoustic set in addition to their second-night headlining spot. I speak for every smiling face I saw when I say that I can’t wait for OBH3; as one fan put it, “I’m never not coming here.” Setlist

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