Photo by PETE TROSHAK.
Spiritual conversion can be kick-started by many things. A burning bush, a tab of acid, getting struck by lightning or falling off a stage while you are playing a rock concert and getting seriously injured. The latter happened to My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James back in 2008. While he was recovering from his injuries, a friend gave him a graphic novel made out of wood published back in 1929 that told the story of a man falling from grace and making a Faustian pact that enabled him to make great art at the price of his eternal soul. That story combined with all the unstructured time he had to reflect on how he had been going down the wrong roads in life led James to record his just-released solo album, Regions of Light and Sound of God. Last night Johnny Brenda’s was packed to overflowing to hear James and his solid four piece backing band perform Regions in its entirety from beginning to end. James is obviously in a better place physically and spiritually than he was in 2008 – he literally glided across the stage, leaned into the crowd to croon, wailed away at a Flying V guitar on a stand and could occasionally be found jamming on a saxophone. He told the crowd that this tour was “the beginning of a beautiful new journey,” before launching into a breathtaking rendition of “A New Life,” the emotional heart of Regions. It’s a quiet, hazy dream of a song that James and his band played like a late night prayer from a man desperate for a new start and a chance to make things right. Monday night it sure seemed like everyone’s prayers had been answered. — PETE TROSHAK