My Morning Jacket rocks the Electric Factory

Alex Longo

Hot off the release of its double live album/concert DVD titled “Okonokos,” My Morning Jacket rolled into Philadelphia last Friday, displaying its unique brand of experimental Southern rock.

Over the past several years, the band has risen to a new level of commercial and critical success due to its exceptional live performances and a steady stream of innovative studio albums.

Just after 11 p.m., My Morning Jacket took the stage in front of a sold-out Electric Factory crowd. Known for its quirky stage persona, the band wasted no time in making its presence known. Front man Jim James took the stage in red sweatpants and astronaut boots accompanied by an 8-foot-tall stuffed grizzly bear.

The band began with three tracks off its latest release, “Z,” including the spacey, anti-war ballad “Gideon” and the Lynyrd Skynyrd-style guitar duel “Lay Low.”

Known for his trademark falsetto, James wasted no time hitting all the high notes and testing the range of the venue’s PA system. His reverb-soaked moans and subtle blue, green and gold lighting cascading over the crowd created a mellow mood. James even put down the guitar for a song, doing his best soul singer impression in the reggae-tinged “Wordless Chorus.”

Other times, James seemed almost to resent his vocal duties, concentrating more on his groovy guitar licks and rocking out with the rest of the band rather than singing. This was especially evident during the guitar-heavy crowd favorite, “One Big Holiday.”

In a fury of lights, guitar and ’70s-style hair, MMJ continued to rock the venue well past midnight.

Other highlights included “Mahgeetah” and the country ballad “Golden,” which featured guitarist Carl Broemel gently plucking the pedal steel as James strummed an acoustic guitar.

The band could have ended its set there, but instead played on for another half-hour in front of the crowd of hipsters, frat boys and 30-something couples. Finally, the band ended with its radio hit, the eccentric reggae rocker “Off the Record.”

Flat out, My Morning Jacket is one of the best live rock bands on the circuit today. The versatility of the band’s music has allowed it to establish a fan base of individuals with eclectic tastes in music. Through hard work and endless touring, My Morning Jacket has risen from indie obscurity to mainstream popularity and continues to gain momentum behind singer/songwriter James and his soaring vocal abilities.