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Live review: My Morning Jacket's technicolor dream

June 23, 2011 |  5:38 pm

The Kentucky band brings its special brand of chaos to the Pantages Theatre.


“Whoever built this knew something about the human brain and the way it's constructed. This is solid gold,” said Jim James, lead singer of My Morning Jacket, midway though the band's marathon two and a half hour set Wednesday night at the Pantages Theatre. 

You could say the same thing about the live performances from the Louisville, Ky., quintet. Like the Art Deco palace, My Morning Jacket creates a dazzling collision of ostensibly irreconcilable shapes and sounds. Guitar lines sparkle like the room's zigzag gold and henna leafs. James' voice levitates like it was unleashed from one of the bronze Apollo statues in the lobby, an Olympian wail best explained through an electromagnetic chart rather than effusive adjective.

This is My Morning Jacket, a baker's dozen years deep into a wonderful career. 

The Pantages stop came in service of “Circuital,” the band's celebrated sixth album. 

Every seat in the house was empty because no one sat down — eyes locked on the stage as celestial ballads became thunderous barnburners.

Like the beautiful jumble of the Pantages, where Moorish, Roman, Assyrian and Art Deco styles squabble, My Morning Jacket remains dedicated to ordered chaos. See “Off the Record,” a slinking reggae rhapsody on the benefits of romantic discretion. Or the phosphorescent disco of “Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Part 2,” where James dangled a glowing Akai MPC sampler/drum machine around his neck like he'd just emerged from making tracks in a Bronx basement. Or new set list staple “Holdin' onto Black Metal,” a Siamese soul number nicked from a compilation of '60s Southeast Asian obscurities, conducted live with a trio of female backup singers dressed in matching black.

My Morning Jacket is too jam-oriented for KROQ and too goofy for hipsters (stage ornamentation included a stuffed bear dressed like a señorita and a mannequin head in a luchador mask). They get funky, they get swampy, they get country (guitarist Carl Broemel brought out the pedal steel during an encore).

But the band's bread-and-barbecue-sauce style is assuredly rock 'n' roll, which they perform with a velocity and grace alien to much of the modern rock landscape. 

Dressed in an Edwardian coat and red and white scarf, James shook his Koosh ball head of hair and darted around the stage, derriere in the air, riffing one-handed guitar solos and uncorking that preternatural wail. 

Patrick Hallahan drums like Shiva, multi-armed and out for destruction.

James' voice is his own, but conjures Al Green, Neil Young, and the Muppets, tapping into the primitive folds in the hippocampus that electrifies arm hairs until they're all standing at attention — along with a communal sensation that leads you to turn to the stranger next to you and ebulliently bob your head in agreement.

At times, the stage design flashed rolling forests and honey-blue skies and light slanting through ersatz stained glass. 

The intent was clear — the minor miracles of the mundane, the beauty of the perfect angle and the gilded container. Sometimes, they still build them like they used to.



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Photo: Jim James at the Pantages. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times