Home / Music / Concert Reviews / My Morning Jacket w/ Band of Horses @ BMO Harris Pavilion

My Morning Jacket w/ Band of Horses @ BMO Harris Pavilion

Aug. 11, 2012

Aug. 13, 2012
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When reports emerged that a Summerfest side stage would be converted into a micro-amphitheater to host one-off musical performances throughout the summer, the concept didn't seem daring so much as obvious. For a city so smitten with the "World's Largest Music Festival," the fact that the widespread grounds remained largely vacant throughout the season—with the exception of the annual ethnic fests and massive-drawing acts playing the cavernous amphitheater—was astonishing. If the area is available, why not take full advantage? Saturday night the BMO Harris Pavilion certainly utilized the space and revived the raucous atmosphere of the Big Gig—this time, thankfully, without the heavy pedestrian traffic or cumbersome beer lines. But really, the evening wasn't meant to be spent gushing about the new digs; the two bands on the bill proved there was more than that. The lush soundscapes of My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses helped the music eclipse the scenery.

As fans slowly trickled into their seats, Band of Horses rocketed through an hour-long set that spliced the celestial with the familiar. Spending their nascent years masking an Americana sound with layers of shimmering guitars and reverb-laden vocals, the Seattle five-piece abandoned much of the noise for crisper melodies on their third record, 2010's Infinite Arms, and as evidenced by new track "Slow Cruel Hands of Time," in which lead singer Ben Bridwell delicately plucked an acoustic guitar, that trend will continue on the follow-up. The heaviest-hitting songs still burst from debut record Everything All the Time. The sweeping guitar sounds held so much emotional wreckage on textured masterpieces like "The Great Salt Lake" and "The Funeral" that it's a shame to see the band take a more stripped-down approach.

As Band of Horses departed from its ethereal past, My Morning Jacket was fully willing to embrace their beginnings. The Louisville, Ky., outfit persistently toes the line between folk rock group and psychedelic jam band, and on Saturday night, even though the number of songs played off each album looked equal, the emphasis was placed on 2001's At Dawn because the songs were, well, so freaking long. When My Morning Jacket last appeared in Milwaukee, the jam band divergences were kept mainly in check to play material off the group's then-just-released record, Circuital. But this time around, frontman Jim James seemed looser, more determined to put on a stellar performance than sell the audience on the band's new stuff.

The psych-rock excesses succinctly melded with their other forays into different genres, such as the falsetto-ed Prince pastiche "Evil Urges," the glitzy pop of "Holding on to Black Metal," and the sentimental, sepia-toned "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)," with Bridwell returning to the stage to sing the second verse. Everything appeared to be clicking on stage. With such ambitious and spectacular-sounding concerts like these, let's hope that the BMO Harris Pavilion expansion is only the beginning.


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