During a sublimely transcendent moment of “Dondante” in My Morning Jacket’s Lexington show, I inhaled strongly and sucked a cough drop quickly into my throat. In the instant I thought “Can I breathe?” I hadn’t recovered enough to really know the answer. Assuming the worst, I realized that — should I have to die before my time — you could do a lot worse than to go out at a My Morning Jacket concert.
Now, all this happened in the time it takes to blink twice — so I really didn’t move or react. But it was a very weird moment that really drove home just how good My Morning Jacket are live. If I’d feared for my life at most any other band I’d imagine my mind would be racing with thoughts of “This is how I die? At a buzz band showcase at SXSW??” But nope. This is a band I’ll stand with forever; a band I’ll live and die with — but thankfully not for a while on that last one.
Let me start by saying that I had to leave this show early. I had to make a PM drive to West Virginia to attend a funeral, so I checked out just after the band played a song or two after Ben Sollee joined them to play “Wonderful.” Had I stayed for the full show, I’m fairly confident that I could easily call this the second best time I’ve seen My Morning Jacket. The first will most likely forever be late night Bonnaroo 2006. Their three hour set in the rain made my first time seeing MMJ absolutely incredible. But this was as good as a coverless present-day set of theirs probably gets.
Durin ghte show a lot of ideas ran through my head about how Jim must feel to be back in Lexington. A few songs in and I realized that everything I figured he must be thinking was actually somehow what I would think if I was in his situation. He lived in Lexington for a bit in college and spoke a few times about it. He shared the story about being here for UK’s championship basketball loss and victory in 97/98 (“No matter what, you fucking rioted”) and a bit of well aimed local college pandoring: “God bless the Euclid Avenue Kroger!” A good deal of My Morning Jacket’s formation happened in UK’s Holmes Hall. And though it seems Lexington didn’t do much to support MMJ in the early years, he clearly holds no grudge. Or if he does, he didn’t let it get in the way of an incredible show and some cheerful between-song banter.
What made this show extra special was the return of the opener Ben Sollee. I’m generally a fan of opener collaboration — this one especially so. Ben came out to play cello three times, the best of which was his contribution to “Wonderful.” That track has long been played live by MMJ, but it’s finally going to appear on the upcoming record Circuital featuring Ben on cello. It was fantastic. I remember hearing Ben’s cello on a few My Morning Jacket songs when he toured with Jim and Daniel Martin Moore, but this takes that to a completely new level. My only wish is that the cello had been turned up a bit — kinda hard to fight its way out from a drum kit and several distorted guitars.
The only other really noteworthy inclusion was the Tennessee Fire track “Butch Cassidy,” which Jim talked a bit about. He said he wrote that song in Holmes Hall after getting off work at Fazolis. Giant cheers from the crowd, many of whom no doubt get off work from crappy jobs and go back to tiny dorms on that same street. It didn’t come across as an intentionally inspiring thing, but to me it was. To any aspiring songwriters in the auditorium, that story would have come across as a godsend of encouragement. And I hope it did. Only I hope the next superstar to come out of UK put in their time in Kirwan tower — that way I’ll have a reason to smile.
Lots more photos after the break.