Sunday, August 22, 2010

My Morning Jacket at the Greek Theater, 8/12/10

Last week, I was lucky enough to see one of the best live bands around twice in three days, first at the Greek in LA, and then in San Francisco at the Outside Lands festival two days later.  Since I'll have a full rundown of my weekend in Golden Gate Park coming up, I'm not going to spend too much time on this show, but I do have some thoughts on why I may avoid the Greek like the plague going forward.

Let me start by saying that I've always loved the Greek.  I've seen (among others) Arcade Fire, Wilco, Silversun Pickups, Kings of Leon, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Flaming Lips and even My Morning Jacket there in the past, and it's always been a generally good experience.  It's a beautiful setting, and as long as you don't get stuck in the terrace seating on the sides, the sound is usually great everywhere.  I say 'usually' because the last few times I've gone it's been getting quieter and quieter, to the point of ridiculousness.

I understand that the venue is right in the middle of a residential neighborhood, and that's why it has such a strict curfew, something I've learned to prepare for over time.  The time on the ticket is absolutely the time the first band is going to play.  But if you're going to turn the volume down lower than I play my stereo at home or in the car, that's a problem.  I didn't notice it the week before at Silversun Pickups because I was sitting a lot closer, but this time, even sitting in the middle of the amphitheater where the sound is usually great, the band was not nearly loud enough.  My Morning Jacket is known for its explosive live shows, but on this night they started slower with "At Dawn," "Golden" and "It Beats 4 U" before cranking it up with the steadily accelerating "Gideon," the ending of which is one of the band's best moments.  Unfortunately, it seemed that whenever the whole band came together to jam out--see photo above for their standard position in front of Patrick Callahan's drum kit--the sound guys would turn it down just a bit, so the instruments were combining to drown each other out, rather than lift each other up.  What should have been an exhilarating head-long dive into the heart of the set was rendered a slow jog, shouts of "Turn it up!" easily rising above the music.

Most maddening of all is how clear it was that the band was in top form.  Jim James' voice was clear and strong, and Carl Broemel's guitar shredded away.  (For a much better review of the actual performance, go read Soundcheck's Ben Wener.)  It wasn't until the crescendo of "Dancefloors" about halfway through the show that the volume was allowed to inch up, but even then it was all relative.  I hate to complain overmuch about an excellent performance by one of my favorites, but I wasn't the only one taken out of the moment; people all around me were grumbling and/or reverting to conversation.  In the end, it was almost two hours of great music, served up half-cooked and under-seasoned, and that is a shame.  Damn you, The Greek.  Damn you.

Set List: At Dawn / Golden / It Beats 4 U / Gideon / Anytime / Mahgeeta / War Begun / Circuital (new) / Where to Begin / Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 1 / Dancefloors / Tonight I Want to Celebrate with You / Wonderful (new) / Dondante / I'm Amazed / Highly Suspicious / Smokin from Shootin / Run-Thru (jam and final chorus only) / Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 2

Encore: Wordless Chorus / One Big Holiday

Photo by Kelly A. Swift, OC Register

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