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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisGiven the steady incline of My Morning Jacket over the past decade, members didn't need a postponed pair of shows to earn them any additional headlines. The group's two gigs at the Chicago Theatre (originally scheduled for the fall) were sold out long before the delay, not to mention the fact these Kentucky-bred rockers were still riding high off SxSW and Bonnaroo appearances (the latter of which featured a near four-hour set).
Though the second of two nights was certainly a marathon, it wasn't chock full of covers like that latter festival frenzy. Instead the evening pulled heavily from 2008's Evil Urges (ATO), while also addressing this jam band of sorts' entire catalogue. Of course, that branding is a bit misleading considering it's usually applied to hippie worshiped acts like The Grateful Dead or Phish, but there was certainly an improvisational ascetic across the two and a half hour affair.
For a fairly sizable bulk of the set, Jim James led his cohorts through a series of scalding shout outs to the likes of Led Zeppelin, part-time peers Kings of Leon and even the psychedelic leanings of Pink Floyd. In those instances, the guys really doused some gasoline on the fire, grinding with fierce shredding and having an impressive strobe-light show to supplement the glass raising mood sparked by monstrous solos. After warming up with the vibrant title track and the melodic retro pop of "I'm Amazed," the intensity truly kicked into gear come the charging "Anytime" and the rough-necked "Remnants."
But the second half saw the momentum slipping, with James tossing on an overcoat at the start of "Lay Low," which began in a soft-spoken, ominous tone before exploding with metal-influenced riffs. Had the track been clipped in half, it would've been far more effective, though it wound up being one of many examples where the band's playing chops couldn't be disputed, but would've been better off restrained.
Though it was by no means self-indulgent at a mere three minutes, "Highly Suspicious" was downright annoying, with James cooing in an unflattering falsetto that marked the night's highest bathroom departure percentage. His solo acoustic encore of "Look At You" was also a snore that leaned close to the country line, also justifying the countless critical and fan complaints that Evil Urges spends too much time abandoning My Morning Jacket's rugged essence.
To the band's defense, audiences didn't have to look any further than the fellow new cut "Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 2" to glean the gang's old school amplification, but at nearly ten minutes, it was again filled with longwinded instrumental deviations. While there's no overlooking the obvious talents presented throughout the emotional experience, My Morning Jacket would be best streamlining its show so that every moment is an unrelenting highlight reel, rather than dipping and dragging just for the sake of a generous run time.
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