My Morning Jacket, Garage, London

Garage, London

There are two things that always come up when My Morning Jacket's Jim James is mentioned: his hair, and his fondness for the music of the Muppets. "That's what I want our music to be some day," he told NME last year, "something that kids can understand and adults can love."

But if this is Kermit's house band, then all the members are Animal - and they have as much collective hair as Sweetie-Pie, the lumbering, yellow-eyed monster. For the entire gig, James's face is invisible behind a thick, curly curtain, bolstered at the foundations by a proto-ZZ Top beard that swallows the microphone when he sings. Bassist, Two-Tone Tommy, is similarly shaggy. Only the keyboard player stands out - but his eyes, although visible, remain half closed as he pounds away at the back of the stage.

As a result, My Morning Jacket never connect with the audience. It doesn't help that James plays his solos hunched over, with his back to the crowd. This is a shame: on record, the band's appeal lies in their heartbreakingly lonely songs, strummed delicately behind a reverb-heavy vocal. Live, they prefer to rock out as heavily as possible, headbanging around the stage like Motorhead. Lowdown, a jaunty, yearning little tune, becomes a straightahead stomper. And on Phone Went West, the keyboard player gets only a brief chance to shine before he is buried by the others playing as hard as they can - as they do for much of the gig. The distinctive longing of the songs is inaudible.

Only on James's solo acoustic encore does the band's distinctive brand of romance filter through. As he lifts his plaintive voice into the graceful chorus of Bermuda Highway - "Don't let your silly dreams/ fall in between/ the crack of the bed and the wall" - the crowd is silenced and spellbound.

Wailing through The Bear, a heavy lament with long, dreamy vocal lines, he drifts off key. Can it be that all that reverb is a crutch, cranked up to disguise a shaky singing voice? No: there is a simpler explanation. "You know, one disadvantage to havin' this much hair is that it goes down my throat sometimes," James says. "That whole song, I had a big chunk down there. I know it's kinda gross, but..." He pauses to fish a lock out of his nose. "But it is worth it. The benefits greatly outweigh the disadvantages."


Carrie O'Grady

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

My Morning Jacket, Astoria, London

Astoria, London

Tom Hughes

28, Sep, 2006 @11:12 PM

My Morning Jacket, The Forum, London

3 stars The Forum, London

Jude Rogers

18, Jul, 2008 @11:24 PM

Article image
My Morning Jacket – review
Every song built to an elemental psych-country crescendo, but My Morning Jacket boast the melodic ballast to anchor them from a drift too far into pretension, writes Mark Beaumont

Mark Beaumont

08, Nov, 2011 @6:50 PM

Article image
CD: My Morning Jacket, Z


David Peschek

21, Oct, 2005 @12:55 AM

My Morning Jacket: Circuital – review
The Louisville natives get back on track with hazy, sometimes utterly resplendent melodies, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

02, Jun, 2011 @9:50 PM

My Morning Jacket: Circuital – review
My Morning Jacket drop the funk and soft rock but their return to form is patchy, says Phil Mongredien

Phil Mongredien

04, Jun, 2011 @11:05 PM

Article image
CD: My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges

(Rough Trade)

Dave Simpson

05, Jun, 2008 @11:10 PM

Article image
My Morning Jacket

Louisville, Kentucky residents Jim James (lead vocals, guitar), Johnny Quaid (guitar), Tommy Blankenship (bass), Danny Cash (keyboards), and Patrick Hallahan (drums). Their awesome, semi-acoustic, reverb-heavy dreaminess is inspired by a vision of combining rock'n'roll with the Muppet Show and Disney.

Dave Simpson

22, Nov, 2002 @1:59 AM

Article image
My Morning Jacket: The Waterfall review – initially endearing, lacklustre later
The Kentucky five-piece seem to have lost touch with their space-rocking former selves on their latest release

Paul Mardles

03, May, 2015 @7:00 AM

Article image
My Morning Jacket: 'We had to work it out ourselves'

They started out in a barn in Kentucky, and became one of rock's great cult success stories. My Morning Jacket's Jim James talks to Stevie Chick about music, death and the Muppets

Stevie Chick

27, Oct, 2011 @8:30 PM