SIXTEENHUNDRED: No cape required
Last Modified: March 16. 2013 5:33PM
by Kait Burrier (words) and Jason Riedmiller (photos)
Brooklyn‚??s Music Hall of Williamsburg filled with the notoriously hip borough‚??s finest on Tuesday, Feb. 19, to welcome indie legend Jim James. The My Morning Jacket frontman played the fourth night of a rapidly growing list of shows, with new festivals and venues announced daily since the start of the tour for his solo album ‚??Regions of Light and Sound of God.‚?Ě
Dean Wareham, backed by a trio including his wife and frequent collaborator Britta Philips, played a brief set of up-tempo mellow rock with plenty of pulsing bass drum and vocal reverb. The crowd was littered with fans chanting along lyrics and nodding to the beat. Wareham made a few jokes about ‚??Downtown Abbey‚?Ě before thanking James for the inviting them to play and exiting.
Motown and soul spread like a smile over the cozy venue between sets as latecomers crowded into the standing room stage-front, wound their way to the balcony, or snagged a coveted bistro seat. Lights and fog spilled from the stage while the disco ball spun above the audience. An eastern-tinged string arrangement cued the band‚??s entrance ‚?? Alana Rocklin on bass; Dan Dorff on keys; Kevin Ratterman on keys, samples, and guitar; and James‚??s former Month of Sundays bandmate, Louisville radio show co-host, and ‚??Regions‚?Ě drummer Dave Givan.
Sixteenhundred has seen My Morning Jacket live enough times to expect a certain brand of Jim James: a bold, charismatic persona followed by a flowing cape and flying hair, with the occasional prop or unexpected hat. The Jim James that played to the packed venue on Tuesday, in a sharp suit and skinny tie, sans cape, with his beard trimmed and wild hair nearly coiffed, manifested the distinctions between his solo work and MMJ.
James played a little over an hour and a half ‚?? extreme brevity in comparison to My Morning Jacket‚??s regular two to three-hour shows. They played the entirety of ‚??Regions‚?Ě sequentially, starting with ‚??State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.).‚?Ě James opened with ghostly vocals and keys, leading to ‚??and down come baby / cradle and all,‚?Ě cuing a synth thud that shook the venue. It only grew from there, satiating the roused crowd with James shredding the flying ‚??V‚?Ě that was still attached to its stand. Single ‚??Know ‚??til Now‚?Ě was next, played true to the album, with theatrical lighting, James‚??s impeccable choreography, and a sax solo from the singer. ‚??Dear One‚?Ě breathed heavier than the recording with a crisp guitar and sharp cymbals.
It was tough to tell what moved faster ‚?? James‚??s finger on his guitar strings or his electric locks. During a heavy instrumental, punctuated by James‚??s dancing, the percussion reached a new level as the lights went wild. The tempo was reined in a bit before Givan sprung for a whirligig drum solo.
During lovely ballad ‚??New Life,‚?Ě James annunciated his T‚??s and sent the crowd into squeals with his humming of ‚??a new life/ hmmmmm, a new life / with you.‚?Ě The lights and tempo picked up with handclaps that charged the singer‚??s feet. A blueout led into a soft light on James and his guitar in between the glow of two downstage laptops operated by Ratterman and Dorff for the gentle instrumental ‚??Exploding.‚?Ě
While the ambient chatter and chirp of fauna wasn‚??t sampled onstage for ‚??Of the Mother Again,‚?Ě the band did open with a lakeside chill vibe. Lights lifted with a solid howl before James shredded electric, his mane saving up static electricity to fuel future dancing. An instrumental soaked the stage and was mopped up by a lounge-y key solo. Colorful lights dripped across the curtains like 2-D lava lamps for ‚??Actress.‚?Ě Rocklin commanded the bass and Ratterman ditched the synth to rip on his guitar. Orbs of white light rotated while keys set the mood for ‚??All is Forgiven.‚?Ě Bright fuschia saturated the stage as James played his vocals like an exotic horn. Following shimmering cymbals, the singer drained his lungs with a steady thread of ‚??ahhs‚?Ě and ‚??oooohs.‚?Ě
The spooky waltz of ‚??God‚??s Love to Deliver‚?Ě swelled heavy across the stage. Hisses, echoes, and exhalations joined the ephemeral music, leading to a haunted jazz jam. James resurfaced with his guitar, headbanging in slow-mo until the music grew frenetic, like the shriek of bees. After cooling down, the reverb picked up, then keys, and soon James was playing his sax. Jim left the stage to the sampled dialogue and laughter, followed by the rest of the band. He reentered for the encore with a few humble words: ‚??This is a special time for us. It‚??s a big chapter in our lives. This is our fourth show ever, so thanks for coming to see us!‚?Ě
Though he didn‚??t go into his typical MMJ between-song philosophic musings, he played a few My Morning Jacket hits to the thrilled guests, including an acoustic ‚??Wonderful‚?Ě that got guttural and beautifully staccato, and James led the audience in a yodel-y slow moan, encouraging the crowd to, ‚?? Go on, get the day out!‚?Ě The band moved into a swaying rendition of ‚??Wordless Chorus,‚?Ě in which James‚??s face wasn‚??t once visible under his mane. MMJ bassist and Music Hall crowd member Tommy Blankenship took the stage on guitar for ‚??It Beats for You.‚?Ě
Blankenship stayed on stage and burned through ‚??Touch Me I‚??m Going to Scream Pt. 2‚?Ě with roaring guitar. The red light blushed deeper as the band‚??s intensity gave a new energy to the MMJ hit. James manipulated his synth necklace for MMJ favorite ‚??Victory Dance,‚?Ě which sustained frenzied lights, wild dance moves, and ended in James releasing a cry like the shriek of an owl. The lights went up and the crowd exhaled. A statue of a golden Chinese cat, perched atop an amp during many MMJ and, now, Jim James shows, waved to the audience as the lights went up and a carnivalesque tune from the ‚??40s swelled over the loudspeaker.