My Morning Jacket Has Epic Show at Santa Barbara Bowl

My Morning Jacket Has Epic Show at Santa Barbara Bowl title=
My Morning Jacket performing at the Santa Barbara Bowl on September 23rd. Photo: Rebecca Horrigan
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By Rebecca Horrigan

When I talked to friends about seeing My Morning Jacket, their eyes seemed to bulge from their heads as they ecstatically nodded, “Yes, I should go, of course!” The answer seemed clear, but I couldn’t seem to get a clear picture of why their live show could not be missed outside of the simple word, “Epic.”

Fresh off of seeing their September 23 show at the Santa Barbara Bowl, I now have a clear understanding of why the word “Epic” is so perfectly apt.

Openers Durand Jones and the Indications got the crowd grooving early with their soulful set full of treats like their single, “Is It Any Wonder,” and a smooth as butter cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rain.”

After a quick set change, the night fell, a single glowing drumhead dotted the center of the stage, and lights projected out like lasers into the audience. The drums and bass started pounding like a heartbeat and bandleader, Jim James strode out center stage in a hot pink jacket, ready to bust out one of many guitar solos. I knew that things were about to escalate.

Like a rocket destined for some higher universe, the band wasted no time launching into hits. “Wordless Chorus” enchanted the audience with lights that sparkled from the trees, the drummer’s hypnotic snare, and backing vocals that fell across the crowd like sweet honey.

The saucy “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream” kept the audience locked into the band's tight and seamless groove. Catchy plucking and shiny warm guitar sounds on “Circuital” further bonded concert-goers together as they bobbed along.

Maybe it’s the lack of live music and togetherness in the COVID-era, or perhaps just the magnetism of the band, but the crowd shared an undeniable collective effervescence. A key example of this was for “One Big Holiday” which built relentlessly until it seemed like everyone was on their feet gleefully jumping up and down.

While much of the solo-ing time was devoted to the guitar, each member of the band shined in their own way. From the tender slide of the pedal steel to the gritty bass solo at the end of “It Beats For You,” My Morning Jacket demonstrated an ease and expertise gleaned from over 16 years of playing together.

Their encore blazed through hits such as “Off the Record” with ferocity. As the final applause came to an end and that glowing drumhead winked goodbye, the crowd shared an inspired, exhilarated, and elated exhale. As I walked out of the reinvigorated Bowl and made my way down the charming tree-lined trail, I texted back friends who asked about the show. The answer was simple, “Epic.”

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