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My view: My Morning Jacket in Canandaigua

My Morning Jacket lead singer Jim James performs Saturday night in Canandaigua. (Photo by Joseph Popiolkowski / Buffalo News)

My Morning Jacket
CMAC Performing Arts Center
by Joseph Popiolkowski

The second of two Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers shows at Darien Lake this summer was apparently pretty disorderly. More than 30 arrests were made for, among other things, assault, drug possession and underage drinking.

Meanwhile, 60 miles east on Route 20, a band that has spent some time on the road with Petty this summer was headlining its own amphitheater show. My Morning Jacket’s concert Saturday night at CMAC was largely free of knuckleheads.

Its flat-out awesome two hour set was the highlight of the summer concert season for this reviewer — right up there with the Flaming Lips at Artpark in July and the National at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s “Rockin’ at the Knox” in June.

Speaking of the gallery’s annual fundraiser, correct me if I’m wrong but by my count Saturday was My Morning Jacket’s first stop in this area (bar Toronto) since opening for Wilco at the 2005 installment of “Rockin.” That’s why it was so distressing to see the beautiful venue only a little more than half full. But we’ll get to that. First, a little trip down memory lane.

Saturday was the fifth time I’ve seen the Louisville quintet in action — and the first in an outdoor amphitheatre setting.

Nothing could ever top that first time in Sept. 2003. It was the day after Hurricane Isabel struck the Atlantic coast but the show went on at Washington D.C.’s famous 9:30 Club. The band’s Southern rock masterpiece “It Still Moves” had recently come out and people were just starting to take notice.

Still, the venue was largely empty and we had plenty of space to stake out a spot right in front of lead singer Jim James. Barefoot and with his shoulder-length hair flailing about, James was on fire shredding his Flying V guitar.

Fast-forward seven years and My Morning Jacket finds itself atop the upper echelon of living, breathing American rock bands. It has released two more expectation-defying albums (2005’s “Z” and 2008’s “Evil Urges”) as well as a live album. Jim James (also now known as Yim Yames) cut his hair and embarked on a productive group project called Monsters of Folk with M. Ward, Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis. And My Morning Jacket has recently performed with everything from orchestras to New Orleans jazz bands in a quest to constantly push the boundaries and have fun doing it.

Today the band is picking up steam once again. It has a new album due out sometime next year. And it’s playing its five albums from start to finish on five consecutive nights in October at New York’s Terminal 5.

But Saturday showed that the “It Still Moves” material is still a vital part of its set list. In fact, we heard five of the album’s first six songs. It was many people’s introduction to the band so it holds a special place for most fans.

The set began with “The Way That He Sings” from 2001’s “At Dawn” — the predecessor to “It Still Moves.” But it would be all we heard from that particular album. There’s never any doubt that a My Morning Jacket show will be a good one. You’re only left guessing if you’ll get this song or that one.

Other highlights included “I’m Amazed,” a great cut-and-dry American rock song that helped put My Morning Jacket up there with Allman Brothers Band and the like. But then the band went right into “Dancefloors,” which turned a roundhouse into a one-two punch.

Shortly after, at the end of a 10-minute version of “Dondante” it was just guitarist/saxophonist Carl Broemel — whose solo album comes out Tuesday — and drummer Patrick Hallahan remaining on the stage with Broemel lost in a smoky, midnight sax wail. All this set against a wooded backdrop on a Saturday night in late August? Sublime.

And there’s no finer encore closer in modern American rock than “One Big Holiday.” Its crescendo building and dramatic comedown left many in a state of exhaustion as they stumbled toward the exits.

James is a natural and comfortable front man. He’s growing his hair and beard back. He wore a cape toward the end. A cape! On most lead singers it would look gimmicky, but on James it works. He also did his best Chuck Berry duck walk across the stage a few times. I’m amazed.

Tom Petty probably drew many times more people to his show and even usurped a few fans of both bands. You couldn’t go wrong though either way. And it’s great for the local music industry to be confronted with choosing between multiple excellent acts on a single night.

It should be said that CMAC is a beautiful venue with great sound. It’s not unlike Lewiston’s Artpark. Situated on a Finger Lake about 25 miles south of Rochester, its summer schedule is over now but there’s always next year. The 90 minute drive from Buffalo is well worth it.

Here is the set list from Saturday's show:

The Way That He Sings
Tonight I Wanna Celebrate With You
It Beats 4 U
Wonderful (The Way I Feel)
I’m Amazed
I Will Sing You Songs
Smokin From Shootin’
Run Thru (end only)
Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Part 2

Wordless Chorus
Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Part 1
Off The Record
One Big Holiday headed to Chippewa tonight

The Black Eyed Peas' will perform at after-party following band's show at HSBC Arena tonight.

Following the Black Eyed Peas' performance inside HSBC Arena this evening, band leader and mastermind will make his way a few blocks to the north for a special DJ appearance at Noir Ultra Lounge, 88 West Chippewa St.

The multi-instrumentalist and entrepreneur will DJ a full set for the assembled. Tickets are available on a first come-first served basis, through the website of the event's promoter, Factory Nightlife, at Only 21 and over will be admitted. 

-- Jeff Miers

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My view: Phish at CMAC last night

CMAC Performing Arts Center
by Jeff Miers

The 2010 summer outing has so far proven to be the most consequential series of shows Phish has undertaken since reforming in 2004 following a self-imposed hiatus. Last summer, when the band played at Darien Lake, the results were often inspired, but largely tentative; this year, as evidenced by Tuesday's show at CMAC in Canandaigua - the only Western New York stop on the summer 2010 tour - Phish is back in a big way. In fact, it is more than reasonable to assert that the band has never been better.

Succesful Phish shows are based upon the level of improvisational interplay between Trey Anastasio, Page McConnell, Mike Gordon and Jon Fishman on the stage, but a certain magic needs to be in the air as well; For things to really take off, the right setlist needs to be in place, the audience needs to be well-attuned, the acoustics in the hall or shed need to be cooperative, and the band members themselves have to be fully committed to wringing every possible drop of joy from the music.

On June 19th and 20th, Phish delivered a two-night stand at SPAC in Saratoga Springs, NY, that is already being discussed in hushed tones amongst hardcore fans. Those shows were simply outstanding, a perfect meeting of inspired setlist choices, nigh-on-perfect performances, and an audience eager to see Phish making the best real-time music it has made since before its hiatus and subsequent "break up". The SPAC shows were outrageous. Tuesday's CMAC performance was equally so, however.

Balancing newer material against early-career deep cuts and what Phish fans consider to be "standards," the band made no false moves. Anastasio's guitar playing generally framed the long and consistently sublime improvisational sections, and these boasted enough ensemble peaks & valleys and purposeful manipulations of tension and release to please even the most discerning fan of mid-90s Phish - a period *94 and 95 in particular) generally regarded to be a peak for the band.

More than a few fans were heard to utter variations on the "Oh my god, they are back, in a big way!" during intermission and on the way out of the concert following Tuesday's show. That point is well-taken: the band's self-imposed exile seems to have recharged the batteries and, at last, reminded the band members themselves just how lucky they are to have found such simpatico musical cohorts.

Summer 2010 is likely to gow down in Phish history as they year the band got its mojo back.

Here's the set list from CMAC on Tuesday, to the best of my recollection.And a few pics I snapped during "Reba".

First set:
The Connection
Down With Disease
Sample In A Jar
Funky Bitch
Ballad of Curtis Loew
David Bowie

Second set:
Mike's Song>Simple.I Am the Walrus>Weekapaug Groove
Limb By Limb
Harry Hood
Golgi Apparatus

First Tube


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Let's talk about the summer concert season! Yay or nay?
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