My Morning Jacket keeps it fresh for its Vegas unveiling

My Morning Jacket plays Brooklyn Bowl.
Photo: Erik Kabik

Four stars

My Morning Jacket October 10, Brooklyn Bowl.

My Morning Jacket was still performing just before midnight on October 10, but at that point, it had already performed the best rock show Vegas had seen in 2015. Assured, intuitive, transcendent, sublime, fluid, invigorating—the list of superlatives within the concertgoing parlance could continue and still apply to the masterstroke display the Kentucky quintet graced upon the surprisingly robust crowd at Brooklyn Bowl.

It takes quite the brass pair to schedule two nights in a city you’ve never publicly played—MMJ canceled a scheduled tour opener at the Joint in 2008, and its Live From Las Vegas at the Palms EP was cut at the hotel’s studio—especially when your post-hype profile makes the $50 price tag seem a little steep. Even gutsier: MMJ programmed zero overlap between the two setlists, with the very new and very old favored during Friday’s show, and the chestnuts associated with its mid-2000s golden era making up the lion’s share of Saturday’s setlist.

That might’ve made the band’s job easier for the latter show, but it was hardly coasting. From opener “Believe (Nobody Knows)”—from this year’s The Waterfall—to the anthemic, obvious closer, “One Big Holiday, there were no discernible missteps by or disconnect between the musicians, and no awkward transitions between MMJ’s myriad genre flirtations. In fact, as it quickly and effortlessly segued from arena rocker “Believe” to the Stones-y R&B of “Evil Urges” to the reggae rhythm of “One Big Holiday” to the folky, Laurel Canyon groove of “In Its Infancy,” the show established its sweeping momentum and revealed a well-oiled live machine.

Bassist Tom Blankenship and drummer Patrick Hallahan kept the ship steady, coated by Bo Koster’s atmospheric and melodic assists on keys (especially during the supernatural disco of “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2”). Meanwhile, guitarist Carl Broemel and vocalist/guitarist Jim James—his flowing black robe, sunglasses and trademark beard making him look like a shamanistic hybrid of Rick Rubin and Stevie Nicks—traded lead axe duties and provided the fireworks, notably on riff-heavy “What a Wonderful Man,” “Lay Low” and, the show’s climax, “Anytime,” three of six performed tracks from 2005’s highly acclaimed Z. I could make the flippant argument that Saturday’s show was a delayed Vegas date for that album’s tour, but that’s probably just me regretting that I missed Friday’s show. Vegas got the full My Morning Jacket experience last weekend, and better late than never.

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