My Morning Jacket Nods to Curtis Mayfield, Kool & The Gang, James Brown and Charlie Chaplin at MSG
My Morning Jacket made its Madison Square Garden debut on New Years Eve. The group asked its fans to dress formally for the occasion and took the stage in suits for an extended, two-set performance that stretched from 9:30 PM to 1 AM.
The five musicians began the night on a small balcony located on the left side of the stage, but quickly took their places to begin the night with a cover of Curtis Mayfields Move On Up. The band then opened up its own songbook for Evil Urges, Off The Record, Gideon, The Way That He Sings Thank You Too, I’m Amazed, Librarian, Wonderful Man, Lay Low, Phone Went West, Look At You, Dondante and a slew of other songs that blurred the lines between rock, soul, country, folk, psychedelia and jam. Like the evenings first two selections, My Morning Jacket enhanced its sound for much of the night with a four-piece horn section that included both Jeff Coffin (The Flecktones, Dave Matthews Band) and Steve Bernstein (Sex Mob, Levon Helm).
Though frontman Jim James initially mentioned that the band planned to continue its Oregon Trail storyline from New Years Eve 2006-2007, the group instead offered an impressive number of funk and soul covers, including Charles Wrights Express Yourself, Sam Cookes Bring It on Home to Me, James Browns Cold Sweat and Dion and the Belmonts I’m A Wanderer. Indie-pop singer Nicole Atkins also sat in on Marvin Gayes You’re All I Need and Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers Islands in the Stream, while Centro-matics Will Johnson took the stage for the beautiful Golden. After a lengthy segue from Smoking from Shootin into Touch Me Im Gonna Scream Part 2 and Run Thru, the band slowed things down, before eventually closing it first set with Magheeta.
My Morning Jacket took a break shortly before midnight while a huge video screen entertained the audience with as series of strange, short clips and songs that climaxed with a segment from Charlie Chaplins anti-Nazi film The Great Dictator. The quintet then returned in white tuxedos for a New Year’s countdown that culminated with covers of both Kool & the Gangs Celebration and Get Down On It. The second set also included Wordless Chorus, Highly Suspicious, the mythic Cobra, Anytime and a set-closing One Big Holiday. Bringing things full circle, the band then put down its instruments and returned to the small balcony for a loose version of Auld Lang Syne.
My Morning Jacket will spend the first part of 2009 touring New Zealand, Australia and Japan. The group will then veer off the road while Jim James works with Conor Oberst and M. Ward as The Monsters of Folk.