Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Rearview Mirror: My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses at MSG, 12.14.11


Although it was a week ago now, the My Morning Jacket/Band of Horses show at MSG last Wednesday is still fresh on my mind.

The day began with a relaxing train ride along the Hudson River courtesy of Amtrak. We arrived at Penn Station around 4:45, checked into our hotel, met up with friends, and grabbed food and drinks at a couple taverns near the Garden. The pre-game couldn't have gone more smoothly -- I knew it was going to be a great night.

I wanted to be sure to catch all of Band of Horses set that started at 7:30, but I was more than disappointed with our sideview, stage right seats (the price you pay for waiting until a month before the show to buy tickets). After hearing Band of Horses' "Cigarettes, Wedding Bands" opener, I was determined to move. So we shimmied over a few sections and grabbed some empty seats so that we could at least see the screen behind Band of Horses (which played a fluttering photo montage of the band on tour and nature). And empty seats were easy to come by. With just a small crowd in the pit and a thousand or so scattered in the seats, the place felt empty and cavernous while BoH was playing. I don't think it's because no one knew who they were, it was simply too early for the New York City crowd. BoH still played like the place was packed to the gills, running through a "greatest hits" setlist, playing songs from all three of their studio albums in a little over an hour, not allowing much room for the intimacy you would expect, even during tender acoustic songs like "For Annabelle". They still sounded great, but I wasn't quite satisfied. But, I guess I can't expect much more; they were there to get the crowd primed for the main event, and lead singer Ben Bridwell was obviously stoked to have that pleasure, saying, "Man, we're so happy to be here in New York City for the last show of our tour. It's been an honor opening up for My Morning Jacket. Those guys are the best. The Jacket's up Next!" (or something like that). I was equally as fortunate to see them at all.

Anyway, here's Band of Horses' setlist:

Cigarettes, Wedding Bands
The Great Salt Lake
Is There a Ghost
The General Specific
For Annabelle
The First Song
Islands on the Coast
No One's Gonna Love You
Infinite Arms
Ode to LRC
The Funeral
Am I A Good Man (I had never heard this one, a really nice surprise. He also brought out flute player/composer Brian Jackson)

By the time My Morning Jacket came on, I was on another planet, or at least in a new seat. We made our way "stealth-like" around the arena so we could get a front facing view of the stage -- and it payed off big time. The sound was infinitely better. The point in opener Victory Dance when the bass kicked in was so loud it made my hair stand up. Same goes for Circuital, when the band kicks in following the acoustic intro riff .. it was like ... holy shit awesome. Then, as few bands can do after hardcore rockers, they brought it back down to earth with the deep and tender It Beats 4 U. First light and I'm Amazed brought the tempo back up steadily, followed by the acoustic favorite Golden, which saw Jim James share the stage with Ben Bridwell - one of the highlights for sure. The rest of the first set was rocking and seemed to get better with each song. I was on cloud nine and didn't want to come down. Thankfully, after a short break, Jim James came back on, wearing his cape -- which is a sure sign of good things to come.

After a beautiful Bermuda Highway with Jim performing solo to open the second set, Wordless Chorus steered off into the dark and mysterious. Day is Coming was a nice choice for a follow up to such an ominous song. Then came a cover of Gil Scott-Heron's "The Bottle" (I had to look this up). I knew Jim and the band were fans of 70's soul/funk jams, and this was a rare treat, complete with the "Uno, Uno, Dos, Tres, Quattro" intro (Jim obviously enjoyed it). It also took full advantage of guest Brian Jackson's flute. Then came the two everyone was waiting for, Holdin' On To Black Metal and One Big Holiday: a live concert experience I'm glad I had a chance to see, and one as good as any these days.

I'll Be Home For Christmas with the Band of Horses fellas was a nice nightcap to a special evening.

MMJ's setlist:

Set I:

Victory Dance
Beats 4 U
First Light
I'm Amazed
Wonderful (w/ Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses)
Steam Engine!!!!!
Outta My System
Dancefloors (with horn section)
Dondante (guest playing flute and keyboards; extended Carl sax)
Smokin' from Shootin'
RunThru into Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. II
Off The Record
Extended Jam of Gideon closing first set

Set II/Encore:

Bermuda Highway to start the encore - Jim solo
Wordless Chorus
Day is Coming
Cover - The Bottle (1974, Brian Jackson and Gill Scott-Heron, composers; Brian Jackson on flute)
BLACK METAL with horns!
One Big Holiday
I'll Be Home For Christmas (with all of Band of Horses)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!

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