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coverpic flag US - Kentucky - Full Moon 125 - 12/05/06

My Morning Jacket
Ato Records/RCA

There's a moment on the live version of MMJ's 'hit' song "What a Wonderful Man," captured here in the expansive Fillmore West documentary, Okonokos, where singer Jim James just can't hang on to the soaring chorus. His voice disintegrates into an enflamed engine of distress, crashing and burning as the band flies on. This epic demise is a pivotal device and nearly a credential of every great tour-scorched, sweaty, theater titan. As with the live tradition of Springsteen (hear his inspiring, road-weathered larynx in it's prime on the newly released Hammersmith Odeon, London 1975) and both Neils Young and Diamond, there's probably no better moment in the whole show than that choking gasp of the breath as the lead singer falls just short of hitting all the notes for the night.

This becomes concerning when James pulls this card only half way through the first set, forcing a sprint to the finish line for another whole disc. Even the would-be sanctuary of the acoustic "At Dawn" and lighter "Xmas Curtain" on the second disc feel exasperated and championed by the band. Their olympian efforts strain "Steam Engine" into 11 minutes and equally drain the listener, but thankfully it's not fatal.

The way My Morning Jacket's various albums recall Wowee Zowee-like back drops over guitar admirations of Duane Allman have always stood to impress. Distinctly, their thinnest and poppiest arrangements have had an aura of emotion where jammies would cloud with pot smoke. Knee-deep into the five minute century of "Dancefloors," the durability of their most charismatic work is pushed to the limits with brutal turbulence. This makes Okonokos as exciting as the end of any given Rocky movie, with James as Sly Stallone just as Rock's getting his ass handed to him by any momentarily superior opponent. The audience enjoys the thrill and angst of hoping our hero makes it to the end of the round as the rest of MMJ drags this feature film out to Titanic-like lengths.

Copyright © 2006 Matthew DeMello e-mail address

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