My Morning Jacket played the Pavilion – 9/15

Jim James and company returned to Boston on a trek supporting their 2021 self-titled record, with support from singer/songwriter Joy Oladokun.

Who is the elusive “jam band with indie cred”? I first heard that term applied to Built to Spill some years back, when their former triple-guitar lineup was still sprawling out 20-minute versions of “Broken Chairs,” but they’ve since condensed and ceded the title. Certainly there are bands in the mix who exist to jam – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard jump to mind – but I’m more thinking of a band that somehow straddles the realms of hippie festivals and the art-rock crowd who’d be loathe to admit they’re jam-adjacent. I think My Morning Jacket could be it.

No strangers to marathon live performances and unpredictable setlists, MMJ embrace one of the key jam tenets of each show being one-of-a-kind. Combine that with an ambitious and omnivorous sound that collects touches of psych, alt-country, classic pop, spacey soul and southern-fried guitar freakout, plus a dedicated fan base following city to city, year after year, and I think you’ve got a solid case here. Then again, who cares what I think about that designation? You’re not reading much about Phish around these parts, and I discovered this band from the long-ago suggestion of some erstwhile indie rock forum acquaintance to scope out At Dawn. 

Such is the genius of My Morning Jacket, who’ve cultivated an audience on both sides of the jam divide over the last two and a half decades. Last Thursday’s show at the Pavilion had room for everyone, as the band spanned all of those years with a generous two-hour-plus set on the harbor.

On every beat, be it the hushed-to-explosive “I’m Amazed,” an extended “Off the Record,” the raucous stomp of “Holdin On to Black Metal’ or a wailing, set-closing “Run Thru,” the band was in total control. Jim James’ soaring voice sounded powerful as ever, and his frequent fretboard faceoffs with guitarist Carl Broemel generated fireworks all night. Keyboardist Bo Koster played an essential part in coloring the songs, and the rhythm section of bassist Tom Blankenship and percussionist Patrick Hallahan – as outwardly enthusiastic and powerful a rock drummer as you could ever hope to watch – held it all down.

The set did bust out a handful of song’s from last year’s self-titled LP (the forthright but affirming “Lucky to Be Alive” segueing nicely from Dawn‘s “X-Mas Curtain,” one of my favorite picks of the night), but the focus was less on showcasing new material than running the full gamut of the band’s catalog and sound. Every LP, all the way back to 1999’s Tennessee Fire and the loping lament “I Think I’m Going to Hell,” made at least one appearance.

Following a 17-song main set, the night wrapped up with a crowdpleasing encore that sandwiched The Waterfall‘s “Spring (Among the Living)” between a charging “One Big Holiday” and a skyscraping “Wordless Chorus” to end the night. Whether my jam band hypothesis holds true or not, and the chill of the ocean air aside, I doubt anyone would’ve complained had said encore simply extended out into set 2.

Check out photos of the show below, including a few of opener Joy Oladokun and her band.