My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses – Concert Review Toronto August 15 2012

Jim James of My Morning Jacket electrifies Toronto’s Echo Beach – August 15 2012

Aug. 16 2012 – In our article of Toronto’s Upcoming Must See Concerts we wrote – “The best band you have never heard of – (or maybe you have heard of them but this band gets very little commercial love in Toronto). Our number 1 album of 2011 as presented in T-Mak World’s Top 10 Albums of 2011 is Circuital by My Morning Jacket. As good as the band’s studio work is, their live performances are so much better. All 5 members seem to draw from an infinite energy source that lets deliver epic length rock shows whether the band is in intimate venues or massive festivals. These rockers from Kentucky are a must see live act, and unlike Roger Waters The Wall, they do not rely on theatrics on stage or flying pigs. They are purely about the music. In 2008 they went on stage at Bonnaroo as relative unknowns and delivered a nearly four hour set that went down in rock history as one of the finest live performances ever. We last saw My Morning Jacket on July 2011 the same night that U2 was playing Toronto and can say with 100% confidence we made the right choice of concert that night.” {ed note. Lead singer Jim James told us that night that he had put Bono on the guest list for the Koolhaus show – he was laughing but he was serious about it!}

Jim James of My Morning Jacket – Toronto August 15 2012

Last night on August 15 2012 My Morning Jacket played Toronto’s Echo Beach with openers Band Of Horses.The current tour is called the Spontaneous Curation Series. Fans of the band can request songs for each stop of the tour and the band makes its setlist based on that. The requests are done either on My Morning Jacket’s website or on Twitter – to see what the fans in Toronto requested do a Twitter search on #MMJEcho. The band even thanked the “curators” the next day on Twitter.

Band of Horses delivered a solid 12 song set to a very large crowd for an opening band. Although My Morning Jacket were the headliners there were clearly a large number of people there primarily to watch a Band of Horses. The Toronto skyline can be seen through the stage at Echo Beach and since the sun had not set yet, it was very picturesque to see the CN Tower as the backdrop of the stage. Lead singer Ben Bridwell delivered a passionate performance and was enjoying the band’s largest crowd in Toronto. He even lit up a smoke at the end of his set and sang his lyrics in between drags – lucky you weren’t in an indoor venue Ben – Toronto’s finest would be ready to fine you! Just ask Charlie Sheen about that.

Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses

My Morning Jacket delivered 6 songs from Circuital (3 of the first 5 songs of the night were from Circuital and 3 of the 6 song encore were from that album). As previously mentioned as great as that album was, My Morning Jacket is infinitely better live and tonight really nailed the point home. The band defies categorization musically but last night there were hard rock headbanging songs mixed in with southern rock borderline country music songs. They electrified the crowd with their energy, musicianship and work ethic. The stage had no props aside from their big bear they have had for a while.  The other 2 albums that the band drew heavily from last night were It Still Moves (5 songs) and Z (4 songs). Surprisingly their breakthrough album Evil Urges was underrepresented with only I’m Amazed on yesterdays setlist. There were also two duets with suprise guests yesterday. Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards joined Jim James for Golden and The Band of Horses lead man Ben Bridwell joined James for Beautiful (The Way I Feel). Both duets got great audience response.

My Morning Jacket – Toronto Echo Beach August 15 2012

In my opinion the most beautiful and impressive song in My Morning Jackets‘ arsenal is Dondante a stirring song that builds up in  similar fashion to Pink Floyds’ Shine On You Crazy Diamond. Roger Waters wrote Shine On You Crazy Diamond as a tribute to their mentally ill former band mate and Pink Floyd co-founder Syd Barrett. Dondate has an emotional back story as well. The song was written by James for his friend Aaron Todovich. Todovich and James were friends from fourth grade and former bandmates in their early band Month Of Sundays. Todovich suffered depression and committed suicide in 2003 at the age of 25.  James practically in tears told VH1 ” at the end of the song I always take a trip back, backstage to say ‘Hi’ to him.” Tonight we were treated to a 15 minute epic jam version of Dondante that was the highlight of the night for many. Musically intricate, vocally haunting, and the exclamation point to the claim that My Morning Jacket is the best active American band.

My Morning Jacket’s Jim James in Toronto August 15 2012

In our review of Circuital in last year’s Top 10 article we concluded with  “this album is pushing music forward into a better place and lead singer Jim James has earned a place on the legends list with stars such as Robert Plant and Roger Waters.” Last night proved that Jim James is arguably the best front man touring today. His infectious energy left the fans charged the whole night and well into the next day.

Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket
Patrick Hallahan of My Morning Jacket

Toronto’s waterfront venues (the beer company Amphitheater and now the cell phone company Echo Beach) have a curfew. {ed note. I am following Neil Peart’s lead and not calling these venues by their corporate names – him and I are such rebels lol!} The thought of a rock concert having a curfew is contradictory in every sense. My Morning Jacket is a “jam” band and can easily play 3 hour sets (like they did 13 months ago at Toronto’s Koolhaus). The mix of a curfew enforcing venue (which by the way let you go to an elevated “VIP” platform simply for sending an tweet with a certain cell phone company hash-tagged in your message) and a rock band like My Morning Jacket is not an ideal union. The setting was absolutely stunning though with Toronto’s lit up skyline as the backdrop of the stage. There was talk before the show not if MMJ would break the curfew but by how much. Turns out they only went 5 minutes over and called it a night at 11:05 pm. On the other hand these waterside venues are perfect for The Black Keys and their 85 minute set list. All in all this show along with Roger Waters The Wall were the best of the year so far.

My Morning Jacket – Echo Beach in Toronto

Verdict: 5 out of 5. If you don’t think that My Morning Jacket delivers the best live rock shows, you have never seen them yet. Toronto thanks you for yesterdays legendary show at the historic Echo Beach (inside joke for those at the show.

Update: Our music editor Michael Litt had this to add – Jim James has the energy of Ozzy Osborne and Jim Morrison; the sing chops of some of the best like Robert Plant, Mick Jagger and Johnny Cash; the mastery of creating music like Roger Waters, all rolled into one person.  He also is very under-rated as a guitarist and when combined with the other excellent musicians in the band they are a band that should please audiences for years to come.  MMJ offer something for everyone as their influences draw from rock, country and folk with a dash of reggae al ’a the Clash.  The stage show has overtones of classic rock al’ a Pink Floyd and Zeppelin done in the modern alternative music style.   What more could one ask for.

My Morning Jacket Setlist Echo Beach, Toronto, ON, Canada 2012, Spontaneous Curation Series
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Jim James
Jim James of My Morning Jacket
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