Last Night: My Morning Jacket at The Fillmore

Categories: Concert Review

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My Morning Jacket at The Fillmore
Friday, August 29, 2008
The Fillmore Miami Beach

Better Than: Bare-knuckle boxing a grizzly bear punch-drunk on thunderous riffs and silky falsetto funk.

My Morning Jacket wandered past a strange crossroads straight into Miami's Fillmore Theater on Friday, finding themselves somewhere between the epic stoner jams and Southern rock that put them on the map, the delirious pop of their breakthrough, "Z", and a new flirtation of Prince-miming funk on their newest disc, "Evil Urges." Oh, and along the way, they may have stumbled across and inherited the long-discarded mantle of "America's greatest live rock band."

So, even though frontman Jim James was referring to the apparently mind-bending effects of his tour around Miami earlier that morning, his best quote mid-show could just as easily have been about the crowd's reception to seeing MMJ bring the goods live:

"Our mental landscape ... was changed forever," Jones intoned darkly.

MMJ's chops were never in doubt on Friday, from the moment James emerged from billowing smoke, a dark cape flapping from his shoulders like a nefarious count, and launched into an soaring cacophony with the rest of his crew.

From the slow-building and ear-blistering build of "Wordless Chorus" to the tightly wound pop of encore-opener "Off the Record," My Morning Jacket showed a diverse Miami Beach crowd why they've earned years of breathless accolades for their shows.

And their best instrument, as always, was James absurdly powerful vocal chords, soaring to Everest-like heights at the peaks of the band's jams.

If there was any complaint on Friday it was that something seemed inherently wrong about constraining a band with such sweeping, thunderous tendencies inside, even in a space as large as the Fillmore's Jackie Gleason Theater.

Like the poncho-wearing stuffed grizzly bear on stage behind James, something about MMJ seems better suited to the great outdoors. Something about MMJ's sound vistas bouncing off the Fillmore's unforgiving walls seemed unnatural, like keeping an untamed beast in a sad little zoo pen. Or maybe it was just drummer Patrick Hallahan's mountain-man locks and beard bouncing behind the drum-kit that made me wish I was at Bonarroo, where the clouds of marijuana smoke could waft gently through the crowd instead of hanging in a choking cloud at head-level all night.

Still, by the time MMJ closed with "It Still Moves" mainstay "One Big Holiday," it was hard to deny that James' and co's epic journey had ended in blissful place -- indoors or not.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Watching two 50-something hippies nearby perform interpretive dance all night -- look, my hands are butterflies! Now, my face is melting! And I've got a ball of light trapped in my palms! -- was enough to make me glad to have missed all those acid years.

Random Detail: Wondering whether hippies outnumbered hipsters? Look no further than the tie-dye light pattern spinning on the Fillmore's walls through the show, or the fliers for an upcoming Widespread Panic concert. Hippies win.

By the Way: Memo to concert venues: Fire the guys whose whole job is to stand in the crowd and glower at your customers. Remind me again why you need this service?

-- Tim Elfrink

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