My Morning Jacket finished out their only four shows of 2019 with an incredible East Coast run this weekend at the The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY and Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, NY. After an incredible two-night run the previous weekend at Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre in Colorado, the gentlemen from Louisville, KY headed east to celebrate with a very special 20th anniversary concert of their first album The Tennessee Fire, plus songs they covered during that era and a very tight set of fan favorites and deep cuts, all played under a perfect summer night in NYC.
The Capitol Theatre was buzzing with excitement as fans gathered early to form a queue wrapping around the city blocks of Port Chester. Many had signed up for the VIP packages which included a BBQ with the band, featuring drummer Patrick Hallahan’s famous smoked meats. When the doors opened, many rushed to get spots on the rail, buy posters or just soak in the majesty of this beautiful theatre. The projectors layered the walls images of the first record and hand written song lyrics and, later, images of space during the first encore – a cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” with soaring vocals from Jim James (lead singer, guitar) and wailing pedal steel from Carl Broemel (guitar, pedal steel, saxophone).
Before we even got to that, the band ripped into “Heartbreaking Man,” the first song from their first album released 20 years ago, with a tenacious energy. One could see the smiles on bassist Tom Blankenship’s face as the boys brought new life to The Tennessee Fire. It is incredible to see what they can do as a live band now. Revisiting the first record was not only special for the audience, but James noted that it was an incredible experience to think about where they were, what they were doing and how much has happened since those songs were written.
Even the slower songs like “Old September Blues” and “Picture of You” were given special treatment with wild guitar riffs traded between James and Broemel – and beautiful solos from Bo Koster on keys. Some of the songs featured a few special lyric changes like the last song of the set, “I Think I’m Going To Hell,” which made the experience of being at the venue and witnessing this performance that much more special for the audience.
On Saturday night, the band bid a bittersweet farewell and ended their four-night summer run with yet another incredible performance. Forest Hills Stadium is a beautiful venue located in Queens and the concertgoers could not have asked for a more perfect night. The band sounded tight and packed a powerful punch into the two and a half hour set. “Compound Fracture” was the opening song from their latest album The Waterfall, released in 2015.
As the sun began to set, the band lit fire to the stage with “Victory Dance” from 2011’s Circuital. “Hope to watch the victory dance after the days work is done / Hope to watch the victory dance in the evenings setting sun,” James sang, motioning to the lingering trails of light over the historic stadium. For fans of the band, it was rewarding to see the full band back together as it had been nearly 18 months since their last performances at One Big Holiday 4. The chemistry was still there and when James and Broemel stood together trading and layering licks over the final two songs of the first set “Steam Engine” > “Phone Went West,” you could see the shape of a heart between their nodding heads with Hallahan, Koster and Blankenship between them.
Both performances were exceptional to say the least and gave the audience the best of both worlds with a night of deep cuts in celebration of 20 years together and a night of fun fan favorites. Hopefully, they are back on the road together again sooner than later.
Setlist – Capitol Theatre: Heartbreakin’ Man, They Ran, The Bear, Nashville To Kentucky, Old September Blues, If All Else Fails, It’s About Twilight Now, Evelyn Is Not Real, War Begun, Picture Of You, I will Be There When You Die, The Dark, By My Car, Butch Cassidy, I Tnink I’m Going to Hell.
Encore: Rocket Man, Weeks Go By Like Days, Tyrone, Tonite I Want To Celebrate With You.
Setlist – Forest Hills Stadium: Compound, the Way That He Sings, I’m Amazed, Golden, Mahgeetah, Evil Urges, Victory Dance > Circuital, Gideon, Off The Record, Spring, Smoking From Shooting, Tropics, Lay Low, Steam Engine > Phone Went West
Encore: Wordless Chorus, Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Part 1, Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Part 2, One Big Holiday.