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My Morning Jacket Brings Their Evil Urges to Chicago

On July 2nd, I had the chance to see My Morning Jacket perform at Northerly Island in Chicago, touring their new self-titled album which was released in Fall of '21. To provide some context, Northerly Island is a popular outdoor concert venue just East of downtown Chicago on a man-made island in Lake Michigan. The island features an enormous outdoor amphitheater that has a pit, ground level seating, and bleacher seats toward the back and sides. I was watching from the ground level seating, a few rows behind the pit.

My Morning Jacket is a five-piece rock band from Louisville consisting of a drummer, keyboardist, bassist, and two guitarists with one also playing saxophone on various tracks. The combination of five instruments and a little bit of reverb allows for them to create a ton of noise that would not be possible with a smaller group. The main focal point of the group is lead singer/songwriter/guitarist Jim James. He has a very powerful voice and their style of vocals have been tailored to fit his strengths. This is accomplished by featuring lots of non-lexical vocals, which are vocals that are not words. If this concept is hard to grasp go listen to the song Wordless Chorus and I'm sure it will become clear. While Jim is the main star, another member of the band that cannot be overlooked is drummer Patrick Hallahan. While Hallahan is a focal point because he is physically imposing, he also stands out because he plays an extremely tight set on drums. He brought the energy from start to finish for a set that was twenty-one songs long and lasted nearly two and a half hours. Hallahan cue'd the start of every song and each song flowed into the next with a song break of about ten seconds that was filled with a drum bridge into the following track. Oh and did I mention, he did the whole set in flip flops!

Before I move into the songs themselves, I'll briefly discuss the stage setup, lights and overall environment. The stage is massive and is flanked by a huge TV screen on either side used for close-ups. The lighting setup was very well done and different songs had different lighting themes. Some songs used more white light to create a monochrome look, while others were set up with vivid colors dancing around. There was a disco ball suspended from the top of the pavilion that sprayed white, green, and yellow spots all over the stage that added another layer to the intricate lighting. While I enjoyed the lighting design very much, the TV screens and seating setup takes away some of the intimacy that is generally desired at a rock concert. It is a much different experience in comparison to a concert at Club Congress in Tucson. Aside from this "commercialized" aspect of the venue, I think My Morning Jacket did a great job of involving the crowd as best they could.

As I mentioned previously, the set was an impressive twenty-one songs and there are a few songs that were definite highlights of the night. The first song to highlight is the second song played, Gideon off the album Z. This song is well known among many fans and it was the first song that nearly all of the crowd could sing along with and was the perfect way to jumpstart the crowd's energy for the rest of the concert. Moving to the tenth song in the set, Holdin on to Black Metal off the album Circuital. This song is important to point out because songs five through nine were less well known and there was a short lull among the audience members. As soon as the opening instrumentals hit, the audience was right back in it. From a more selfish perspective, I only discovered this song a couple months ago and it has been one of my favorites as of late so it was fresh in my mind and I was so excited that they decided to play it.

Moving to the second half of the show, the seventeenth song they played was Wasted off of their album The Waterfall III. This song has a signature guitar riff that loops through the entire song and it is one that I absolutely love. This song is one that is not all that popular among fans but after I heard it the first time I couldn't stop playing it. For this reason, I felt like somewhat of an outsider screaming out all the lyrics by myself but things could be worse. The band decided to walk off stage after this song, but it was clear there was an impending encore. After a few short minutes they came back out and finished up with a four song encore. The nineteenth song played was Wordless Chorus off the album Z. This is easily one of their top three most popular songs and the crowd loved it. The unique nature of the song, combined with Jim James' voice is very evident of their style of music and is kind of a "calling card" for My Morning Jacket. I have included a picture of the set during this song below this paragraph. The last song to mention is the last song of the set, Touch me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 2. Pt 1 of this song was featured as the fourth song of the set but the songs don't connect instrumentally so they do not need to be played consecutively. This song is a great representation of the band's jamming tendencies and it is probably my favorite song out of all their discography. During the entire concert I was hoping they would play this song at some point and the fact that it was a finale made it even more special. Aside from my own personal wants, this song is well-known among fans and everyone seemed to enjoy it as it capped off the evening.

Before I conclude this review I would like to mention the opening artist, Indigo De Souza, which is the name of both the group and lead singer. I was not able to see the entire performance by this group but from what I did see I think it would be fair to describe them as an indie band with some pop and punk tendencies. Their music was generally too soft and slow for my usual taste but the lead singer does have a fantastic voice. I did enjoy her performance of their final song of the set, Real Pain off the album Any Shape You Take and I think this group can grow and develop within the current style of indie music.

Overall, I seriously enjoyed the intense and clean performance of My Morning Jacket and I was pleasantly surprised by the set list which included songs that I did not expect, but which made them that much more fun to hear.

Reviewer's Name: Ellis Laveen

Date of Review: 7/3/22

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