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Posted at 11:26 AM ET, 08/15/2011

In concert: My Morning Jacket at Merriweather Post Pavilion

Jim James led My Morning Jacket through a three-hour set Friday at Merriweather Post Pavilion. (All photos by Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)
It’s taken a few years, but My Morning Jacket has finally proven that if you want to be the great American rock band, you’ve got to know your Irish music. Specifically, U2. Friday night at Merriweather Post Pavilion the Louisville-bred quintet performed a three-hour set including songs that stretched back as far as the group’s ’03 breakout record, “It Still Moves.” It was an evening of arena-charged Americana and classic-rock radio nods shot through with Bono-approved steroids.

My Morning Jacket has carved out a comfortable niche between worlds. The band jams, but it’s not a jam band. Frontman Jim James’ melodies frequently reference the Southern rock and soul music of the ’60s and ’70s, but he’s happy enough to strut around the stage wearing a sampler — the iconic instrument of hip-hop production — as a necklace. Their music hits a nice balance between today (spacey noise) and yesterday (Skynyrd-style guitar solos).

The quintet’s latest release, “Circuital,” makes a concerted effort to capture its live feel — loose but never sloppy, intimate but epic. It’s a fine disc, but it lacks the band’s onstage energy. On a CD, you can’t watch James do his thing. At one moment, he’s bombastic and unhinged, bounding across the stage, shredding on a Flying V like Ted Nugent’s punk rock grandson. The next, he’s introspective and wounded, cooing in his haunting and ageless falsetto.

(View a photo gallery from Friday’s show.)

On its earliest records, the band had a consciously vintage sound — back-to-basics roots-rock, albeit soaked with a cistern’s worth of reverb, a production trick that’s become the indie-rock version of antiquing a piece of furniture. Since the mid ’00s, the band has become more omnivorous.

Friday night, hints of Philip Glass, Radiohead and Prince regularly crept into the mix. The fuzzy, funky, “Holding Onto Black Metal” even lifts its main riff from “E-Saew Tam Punha Huajai,” a Thai garage-rock song. But make no mistake, My Morning Jacket plays American music. With its chugging guitars and chiming chords, the set-closer, “One Big Holiday,” could move a lot of pickup trucks.

By Aaron Leitko  |  11:26 AM ET, 08/15/2011

Categories:  In concert | Tags:  My Morning Jacket

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