My Morning Jacket didn't just blow smoke 

Jim James and the MMJ crew put on a theatrical and smoky show

My Morning Jacket w/ Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Family Circle Magazine Stadium
April 28

Jim James entertains, whether he’s sweeping his cape over the crowd, wrapping linen around his head, or pulling toy guns from holsters at his hips. My Morning Jacket show — who must single-handedly keep the folks making smoke machine juice in business — straddle the divide between a rock performance and stage production.

Daniel Island's Family Circle Magazine Stadium proved once again that it's a fantastic venue for artists at MMJ's level. Everyone in the half to two-thirds capacity crowd had an excellent vantage point, and the sound mix was more than acceptable for an outdoor venue throughout the stadium.

Unfortunately for those not in their seats promptly at 7 p.m., New Orleans' Preservation Hall Jazz Band deviated from the Charleston norm and walked out on stage at their scheduled time. Their quick, 30-minute set of Dixieland jazz went unheard by most attendees, who were still excitedly entering the venue or waiting for beers.

MMJ arrived on stage with plenty of daylight to spare, hitting an early highlight with "Off the Record," four songs into the set. James' wireless guitar transmitter lets him run and jump across the stage at leisure, sporadically swinging his cape in big arches over his head.

The obligatory "I'm Amazed" came early as well, keeping the energy high as dusk set in. Halfway through set one, "Mahgeetah" provided the first of a few awe-inspiring musical moments, as the band climaxed through a hazy fog of blue and green lights. MMJ's light guy is truly a part of the band, dropping darkness across the stage, save one beam on James during his vocal interlude, before the band falls back in behind him to an explosion of color and sound.

Guitarist Carl Broemel kicked into high gear about midway as well, frequenting his pedal steel and adding hot twang licks to the rock soup. After about 10 minutes of ambiance and slow tunes, MMJ transitioned to their big finale with the stunning "Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Part 2." James again pulled out his Omnichord keyboard that he'd started the show with, showing off its spooky circa-1985 beats. MMJ's biggest anthem, "One Big Holiday," closed the show, prompting girls (and one dude, oddly) to get up on their friends' shoulders, and the crowd to roar with glee.

The show's seven-song encore carried on like a second set, beginning with Weenie from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band playing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" solo on his sax. With the full moon rising over the stadium, MMJ returned with a grooving "Wordless Chorus," backed by a full New Orleans horn section. "Evil Urges" seemed an odd choice for collaboration, with the Preservation Hall guys not adding much to the sound, but the Mardi Gras tune "Carnival Time" that soon followed had everyone boogying like the French Quarter.

To close the show, MMJ chose the funky, brassy Curtis Mayfield classic "Move On Up." Made all the more entertaining, of course, by the towel draped over Jim James' head.

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