My Morning Jacket, Neko Case
Aug. 7, The Lawn at White River State Park
Muse, who recently came to town, are rightfully considered one of the top live acts performing today. My Morning Jacket deserves to be in that conversation too.
The five-piece rock band gave a sprawling yet concise concert Sunday at The Lawn. Despite the heat and a set the night before at Lollapalooza in Chicago, the group conveyed passion and energy throughout. Head-banging his considerable mop of hair all evening, lead singer Jim James could easily front a metal band.
It probably helped that MMJ lead guitarist Carl Broemel is originally from Indianapolis. Now a Nashville resident, Broemel is a Pike High School and Indiana University graduate who once played in Hoosier roots-rock band Old Pike, a promising act that never broke through.
Broemel has found his niche in My Morning Jacket. He split duties between guitar, lap steel and saxophone during the show. He helped take the reggae rock of “Off the Record” into spectral territory with some howling leads early on and took on lead vocals for the high plains country of “Carried Away,” some of his finest guitar work on the night. James talked about Broemel’s Indy roots after that song, while footnoting MMJ’s Louisville heritage.
“I hereby declare an end to the war between Kentucky and Indiana,” James said.
Other highlights included “Mahgeetah,” a Beach Boys-sounding gem with loud, snarling guitars. Some arpeggioed metal licks from James only added to the fervor. The cavernous and psychedelic “Dondante” was easily the fiercest jam of the night, a continual slow build of unpredictability with one cadence after the next. Broemel finally finished it with a night-cutting sax line.
“Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2” was another mercurial experiment, featuring a throbbing bassline from Tom Blankenship, robot moves by drummer Patrick Hallahan and James getting freaky with an Omnichord and vocal-effect instrument that hung around his neck.
Fans certainly got their money’s worth from the two-and-a-half hour set. Given the stifling August heat, it was probably a bit of an endurance run for some attendees. There were no complaints from the band, though, so fans seemed to follow their lead.
Opening act Neko Case wasn’t so lucky in that regard. The sun was at full shine during her 45-minute performance.
“It’s hot, just go with it,” Case seemed to say as much to herself as to the crowd. “Good thing I don’t have balls.”
She and her band, which included banjo and standup bass, soldiered through with a fine mix of low-key country and gothic balladry, her honeyed voice soaring through the swelter.