The last time My Morning Jacket appeared on Austin City Limits, in 2008, we were still in our original studio on the UT campus. So we were thrilled to welcome the Kentucky quintet to what’s been our home stage for the past five years for its third taping and first to be streamed live around the world. Concentrating on its most recent albums Circuital and The Waterfall, the band turned in a trademark epic performance.
After some brief pre-taped intro music, the band took the stage to the folk rocking strains of “Circuital.” Resplendent in his swirled kimono and big sunglasses, leader Jim James strapped on his Gibson for the neo-classic rock anthemry of “Believe (Nobody Knows),” segueing almost immediately into the similarly-inclined but pedal steel-laced “Outta My System.” Bo Koster’s buzzing synths and a midtempo stomp powered “Spring (Among the Living),” with James and fellow axeperson Carl Broemel alternating meaty solos. The band didn’t have to tell the audience that it would slow things down, instead jumping right into the self-explanatory “Slow Slow Tune” to bring on a mellow mood. The Jacket then did something we love: debuted a new song, entitled “Throwback (When We Were Young),” and driven by dueling riffs and a singalong chorus.
Band and audience paused for breath, before James and Broemel began the fingerpicked guitar web that introduces the epic “Tropics (Erase Traces).” After that storm of guitars and fire, the group brought the mood back down with the languid, soulful “Only Memories Remain,” on which James showed off his vocal range and took a dynamic guitar solo that went from jazzy to jagged. After eight songs drawing from Circuital and The Waterfall, the band reached back to its 2003 classic It Still Moves for the crunchy “Masterplan,” six-strings a-blazing. MMJ dipped back into The WaterfalI for “In Its Infancy,” which shifted from keyboard-led grooves to powerhouse arena rock at will. The band segued immediately into It Still Moves fan favorite “I Will Sing You Songs,” ending the main set on an unhurried note that eased the audience into the break.
Returning for a generous five-song encore, James, Broemel and Koster took the stage for the lovely “Wonderful (The Way I Feel),” with bassist Tom Blankenship and drummer Patrick Hallahan joining halfway through to transform it from folk to country. “Get the Point” aimed for an even more mellow target, the better to clear the palette for “Victory Dance.” Donning a towel on his head and a sampler around his neck, James strolled the stage as Koster’s clavinet roiled behind him and the band built up to its proggiest crescendoes yet. A galloping Hallahan beat announced the widescreen groover “Compound Fracture,” which stretched out without zoning out. The band brought the show to a close with It Still Moves’ upbeat rocker/statement of purpose “Mahgeetah,” bringing it all home with James and Broemel’s dueling guitar solos. The audience made its appreciation known loud and long. It was a fitting end to a spectacular show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall as part of our Season 42 on your local PBS station.