REVIEW: My Morning Jacket @ McCaw Hall and Cold War Kids @ The Showbox (part 1)

Earlier this week my buddy Brent Stecker and I trekked over the hill (that’s Eastern Washington lingo for driving over the mountain passes to go to Seattle) to catch a few shows.

Sunday night we saw My Morning Jacket at McCaw Hall (one word: awesome) and Monday we caught the Cold War Kids twice, once at their Easy Street Records in-store set and later that night at the Showbox.

I’d love to tell you all about both shows, but since Brent did such a good job summing up our weekend adventure on his MySpace blog I decided it would be better to let him recount our musical escapades.

Also, Brent recently started a promising blog about guitars and guitarists called Tiny Strings (the link to the blog will be coming soon, I promise), so I figured this post would act as his indoctrination into the blogosphere.

So here is guest blogger Brent Stecker’s review of the first of two excellent shows that went down recently, taken from his MySpace blog (emphasis added).

Welcome to another exciting edition of my usual concert reviews. This time we have My Morning Jacket, who kicked royal a– at McCaw Hall, and Cold War Kids, who gave the Abercrombie Kids the best show they’ve seen since they saw that band that wrote that theme song to that show about rich teenagers with problems in southern California. What was the name of that show, again?

Alright, let’s get to me acting like my words about music are as entertaining as watching people play music.

After leisurely waking up around 1 p.m. on Sunday, I met up with T-Money-Dollar Sign (Travis Hay) and took off for Seattle to catch My Morning Jacket, one of my favorite bands of the “now.” The Jacket was one of the first bands I encountered after I started my unofficial “I’m a (community) college kid so I need to listen to bands that nobody’s heard of” mandate. I got sucked in by “Wordless Chorus,” the first track off their excellent “Z” album. I eventually caught them at The Moore in early 2006, and was completely blown away by the hairiest band in the land.

This time around, it was more of the same — although MMJ was a little lighter in the hair department.

Being that we were in McCaw Hall, where (I believe) the Seattle Ballet is based, it was a special show for MMJ, who were all by themselves — no openers. They kicked it off with three cuts from their new, Prince-influenced “Evil Urges” album, then jumped into high gear with Z’s “Gideon,” which gave frontman Jim James his first chance to stretch out the vocal chords.

The middle of the set wasn’t very memorable, as the Jacket continued to hammer out songs from “Urges,” but it made it that much better when they started delving into rockers like “Dancefloors” and “Mahgeetah,” both off my personal favorite MMJ CD “It Still Moves” (aka The Bear Album). They jumped into “Lay Low,” which begins innocently enough as down-home country song, only to degenerate into a barnburnin’ rocker.

James spent the first four minutes or so of the song running around in a cape — which he always dons whenever performing a song without a guitar — but he quickly strapped on a Flying V in time for a dueling solo with fellow guitarist Carl Broemel that brought out the guitar nerd in me. A particularly stirring version of the beautiful “Golden” followed, and late into the set they turned to “Dondante,” a slow-burning epic that eventually became the best jam of the night (Travis timed it 20+ minutes), complete with solos of all kinds — the best of which may have been Broemel on sax.

“Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Pt. 2,” the closer on “Evil Urges,” ended the main set, and it came with a couple of highlights. The first was a disc-shaped instrument James employed that set the main melody, giving off a bleepity-bloopity sound reminiscent of the digi-guitar from Flight of the Conchords. The second was the way the song ended, where, after a slow breakdown to close the song, a quick audio click of canned cheering caused James to run off the stage like a teenage girl in a summer camp slasher film.

MMJ broke back onto the stage for the aforementioned “Wordless Chorus,” which ends with the best Elton John impression this side of me on a particularly chipper afternoon. Next came the highly enjoyable “Highly Suspicious,” which is memorable to me for the robotic backing vocals, sweet guitar solo, and the unbelievably awesome lyric “peanut-butter pudding surprise.” Next was the surf-guitar inflected “Off the Record,” which is always in the daily Brent Stecker afternoon jam session rotation, followed by the 1-2 punch of “Anytime” and usual closer “One Big Holiday.” Let me just say, if you’re never heard “One Big Holiday,” you’re one big holi-loser. Oh, SNAP, dawg!

Brent Stecker is the author of Tiny Strings, an under-construction blog about guitars and guitarists. Samples of his blog can be found by clicking here and here. Part two of Brent’s review will include the Cold War Kids and his own peanut butter pudding surprise in the form of a $6 milkshake

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