Show Review: Jim James (My Morning Jacket) @ The Belly Up Tavern

Yours truly arrived early with Rosey from in tow. To be fair, I was probably the one in tow: Rosey had been resourceful enough to procure tickets for the invitation-only event, though as it turned out 94/9′s promotions people were handing out tickets out front before the show; perhaps their “on the DL” marketing campaign was too smart by half. Outside, I had the good fortune to run into Ryan Renteria, the director of our “Bottom of this Town” video, who I hadn’t seen in a while. Inside, we managed to find great seats along side Seth Combs, Adam Gimbel and Citybeat‘s Troy Johnson.

Tonight’s show was part of a series called “The Craft,” a series of songwriter interviews/performances co-sponsored by Miller (thanks for the free hooch, guys) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (thanks for sending the unholy spawn of Stuard Smalley and an English Lit professor as the interviewer). I’ll spare you the details of the interview, but suffice it to say that no normal fan, if given the chance and a limited time frame, would ask Jim James if he ever tried singing up a half-step in order to increase his range. Warren Zanes, who represented the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on this occasion, had a penchant for stripping the event of any shred of the spontaneity on which rock music has always been predicated. He did manage some interesting questions, but they were too few and far between to justify the ten minutes or so that were dedicated to them between tunes.

Ah, the tunes. My, my, Jim James is a man with a common name and an uncommon voice. Playing primarily through a Gibson acoustic, James gave the (relatively, this being San Diego) rapt crowd an incredible performance rich with nuance, depth, and heart. In short, his all-to-brief musical interludes justified the reverent tenor of the evening, though their emotional depth made the nuts-and-bolts questions to which he was treated seem all the more prosaic by comparison. We did get to sample some unnamed new songs, which were both much more straightforward than anything I’d heard from My Morning Jacket to his point and reminiscient of the Flaming Lips. It’s an open question as to whether not these are good things, and really not one for me to decide: in this case, I’m a tourist, not a dyed-in-the-wool fan.

The Belly Up was a great venue for this kind of gig. Lovely to look at, acoustically rich, it was the perfect environment. The clientele could stand to have a few lessons in manners and making less noise during an intimate acoustic set, but that’s on 94/9’s listeners, not the bar. Demerits to the smug, bald, penis-in-a-black-t-shirt dickweed who tried to heckle. Assuming you read well enough to understand this, I think you know who you are.

Sorry for the lack of pictures: hopefully Rosey’s attempts at clandestine photography were more successful than mine.


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