THIS JUST IN: My Morning Jacket @ The Mann

with special guest
Fri * Aug 17
The Mann
Fairmount Park * Philadelphia
Tickets On Sale Friday, 5/04 at 10AM!

PREVIOUSLY: Opening for a band that draws seven or eight times as many people as you do seems like a no-brainer, after all if you win over just a quarter of the crowd, you’ve more than doubled your draw in this market. The downside is nobody shows up for the opening act at the Big Rock Show — never have, never will. Tuesday nigh at the Mann was no exception when Neko Case opened for My Morning Jacket and delivered a game, but faintly glum set to mostly empty seats, which is too bad because she is worthy of a capacity crowd.

Which is not to say that those seats weren’t completely filled with stubbly, red-eyed young men, and the women who go to concerts with them, by the time My Morning Jacket took the stage and kick-started a sweaty, fist-pumping, three hour hoedown of southern-fried beard-rock, soul power and even a little reggae carpetbaggery. Ten years on, the band’s star continues to rise — last time through they played Penn’s Landing, before that the TLA, and the days when they still played The Khyber are many beards ago, back before the truce between indie rock and the Jam Band Nation was declared at the Bonnaroo Line. The reason is simple: live they are an unstoppable force of nature.

Fronted by the irrepressible Jim James — fuzzy-faced, Buddha-bellied, rocking a cape and a Cousin It haircut, whirling about the stage dervishly with a towel over his head — MMJ made it abundantly clear they were playing for keeps, slathering bruising he-man riffage and bombastic beats with ethereal harmonies, sounding like Lynyrd Skynyrd if it swallowed Big Star whole.

“Smokin’ From Shootin'” was epic, something-to-write-home-about stuff. “Phone Went West” was positively apostolic. “Highly Suspicious” was all crazy sexy Princely funk on the verses and skull-splitting, Flying Vee-powered axemanship on the choruses. “Golden” was just that, a reminder that it remains their greatest song.

Reverb has always been My Morning Jacket’s best friend. Wednesday night it was practically a sixth band member, multiplying exponentially the cavernous overtones of the Mann’s domed ceiling. When Jim Jones opened his mouth to let loose one of those long ghostly falsetto whoops that seem to stretch from here to eternity, you really began to get a sense of what infinity sounds like. Still, there were a few wet firecrackers. “Holding On To Black Metal” never quite reached the satanic majesty its title promises, and Neko Case and Jim Jones duetting on Tom Petty’s “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” was not nearly as awesome as it sounds on paper. But by the time they got to the fist-pumping, show-closing “One Big Holiday,” after nearly three hours of stomping on the terra, all that was soon forgotten.

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