After a European tour and a spell at various festivals, My Morning Jacket were back in London to round things off with a show at the Forum, before heading to Benicassim and then back for a US tour, culminating in a headlining spot at Madison Square Garden on New Year's Eve.
After the disappointment of the recent Evil Urges album, I was hoping that mis-step would would have little effect on My Morning Jacket's legendary live shows - but unfortunately it's repercussions haven't stopped there. Title track Evil Urges made for an untypically muted opening, but some older favourites plugged the hole - and with the heavy groove of Off The Record the show started to pick up, finding it's stride with Gideon and old time classic The Way That He Sings.
Unfortunately, a trio of new songs (Two Halves / Sec Walkin' / Thank You Too) then slowed the show to a crawl, as even through they make are some of the more conventional recent tracks, they just don't have the emotional clout of previous classics. Even the band seemed less enthusiastic with this newer material, ham-stringed by the fact that for the most part they eschew the band's most obvious weapon - Jim James stellar voice. Attempts to beef up the tracks with extended work-outs just made things worse, and it took Lay Low to get things back on track. Any performance that requires strapping on an extra guitar half way through deserves accolade, and the band whipped the audience into a hairy rock frenzy. Like a mad Mick Hucknall, James even had a "cape roadie" to assist him when his victorian outer-garment slipped of in the chaos.
Playing out in much the same way as the recent album, the gig may have been slow to get going but was ultimately rewarding. By the time of Smokin' From Shootin' and Touch Me Part 2, the band were back to their old ways - huddled around the drum riser for a more impassioned and suitable guitar work-out.
Like a re-release with a bonus live EP, the show moved on from the Evil Urges-heavy set-list and back to the MMJ we know and love. James was back on stage solo for an acoustic run through of Golden and into an encore that found the band revving up for awesome work-outs of Phone Went West, Dondante, Anytime and a monster finale from One Big Holiday. All in all, plenty to write home about, but for a band capable of 'unbelievable' we had to settle for just 'pretty awesome'.
See more photos on our Flickr page.