Review: My Morning Jacket at Riverside Theater October 3

Photo and story by Tim Cigelske

“We are the innovators/ They are the imitators.”

This line got the biggest sing-along crowd reaction at My Morning Jacket’s show at the Riverside Friday night.

It comes as a bit of a surprise to see My Morning Jacket make it to this point in their career. In the span of three albums, the band has explored a thousand forking paths and become completely resistant to type-casting. How they pulled it off is impressive, considering they could have easily gone down as a footnote as those hairy hillbillies who were on that one beer commercial.

My Morning Jacket proves you can’t judge a band by their beards.

At Friday night’s show, the Louisville-based band displayed their expansive range with tunes that incorporated metal to funk to middle eastern vibes to, yes, the psychedelic southern rock that won them a devoted core of fans with their debut, “It Still Moves.”

By their sophomore effort “Z” took them to new and unexpected territory of electronic, dub and reggae and even featured a concert collaboration with the Boston Pops. The song “Wordless Chorus” from this album provided the distinction between imitators and innovators that pleased Friday night’s crowd.

This Radiohead-esque departure could have easily fallen flat, but instead brought more fans to the fold. Singer Jim James was awarded Esquire’s “Eskie” award for best songwriter of the year while Metacritic labeled “Z” the highest acclaimed album of 2005, only behind Sufjan Stevens’ “Illinoise.”

But while Sufjan is still stuck in neutral, My Morning Jacket has pushed their boundaries even further. “Evil Urges” definitely falls into the category of wildly ambitious third studio album that all commerical bands seem to feel compelled to create. Unlike many of their peers, My Morning Jacket has managed to pull off this project without seeming ridiculous.

“Highly Suspicious” is one song that proves this point. James adopts an otherworldly falsetto while the band churns out sinister-sounding funk grooves. This was one of the biggest crowd pleasers of the show, with James donning a head covering while the light show danced menacingly.

Though it all the band continues to have that same aw-shucks southern demeanor that they’ve always had. During the show, James made a point of saying that the Riverside was a “treasure” and that the venue took good care of them with “a home-cooked meal.” How many rock stars remember to thank behind-the-scenes workers for a home-cooked meal? That’s refreshing.

The band was not ashamed or afraid to go back to it’s roots, either. The final song of the encore was “One Big Holiday,” their signature song from “It Still Moves.” That will always be their “Jeremy” or their “Smells Like Teen Spirt” or, to make an over-obvious comparison, their “Freebird.”

As for their next direction, it still moves.


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