In honor of the 20th anniversary of 2003’s It Still Moves (a popular choice amongst long-time fans for the band’s finest (or at least most quintessential) record), My Morning Jacket played the first of four special shows peppered throughout the band’s late-summer and fall tour to celebrate the occasion in the familiar surroundings of Red Rocks Amphitheatre, affectionately referred to by Jim James as “the birth canal of the universe”.
After yet another damp and rainy summer day in Denver, which has experienced the wettest (but also greenest) season on record to date, Mother Nature relented just in time for the band to take the grand stage just after dusk to celebrate the pivotal album amidst an eerie fog and unseasonal chill.
It Still Moves was recorded in the band’s latter salad days and the two sides of the record both represented a celebration of the band finding their reverb-drenched, weirdo rock sound and the more exploratory, psychedelic and dreamier fare that would follow with later albums (once ‘new’ members (Bo Koster and Carl Broemel) would join the band full-time in 2004.
Seeing the album played in sequence recontextualized the moment of the album in the band’s modern iteration on a much grander stage than MMJ was frequenting in 2003 (or perhaps ever dreamed of at the time). With the growth, progression and personnel transformations of the band in the past two decades, showed yet again what a well-oiled and focused machine MMJ has become in the years since the freewheeling record hit shelves (mostly in CD form). After the opening sequence of “Mahgeetah > Dancefloors”, M. Ward would join the band to add an extra layer of croon to the shimmering sound of “Golden” and Jim James would later note that their longtime friendship with Ward times almost exactly to the time when ISM was initially released. “Master Plan” would come next, and few songs from the early lineup of the band have grown into more of a fully-cooked monster with the addition of Broemel and Koster – who would add sonic blankets of gusto to the originally half-baked and well-fried studio version, with a god-tier guitar solo by Broemel signing off towards the end over Koster’s expansive rolls on the keys.
The sequence of “Master Plan > One Big Holiday > I Will Sing You Songs > Easy Morning Rebel > Run Thru” is one of those a fan looks back on from a veteran band’s early output and wonders how such a living jukebox could produce such a mountain of bizarro eccentric gold on a single release. For me, despite chasing the band all over the country (and a holiday in Mexico in 2022) for nearly two decades, seeing “Just One Thing” and “One in the Same” for the first time (as well as the first time the band had performed these in over five years) was the rarest treats of a night filled with them, but the raw power of a fifteen minute “Steam Engine” that sounded as good as ever, was the surefire highlight of a special evening.
After a short break, the band returned for a second frame (calling it either an encore or set two works all the same) and marked a steep departure from the predictable glory of the first half, running through nine songs from six of the band’s other albums (only lacking Tennessee Fire and The Waterfall for those keeping score at home), showcasing the wide and still-expanding celestial grandeur the MMJ catalog now represents.
As highly anticipated as this show was, the Kentucky-born quintet was able to meet the moment and deliver a lifetime of memories in the two-and-a-half-hour show. A celebration of a quintessential release by one of America’s great live bands of the last quarter century at what is perhaps the nation’s most special stage, what a time to be alive (and present)?!
Setlist: My Morning Jacket at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO // Friday, August 25, 2023
It Still Moves set: Mahgeetah > Dancefloors, Golden*, Master Plan > One Big Holiday > I Will Sing You Songs > Easy Morning Rebel > Run Thru, Rollin’ Back > Just One Thing, Steam Engine*, One in the Same
Encore: Victory Dance, Least Expected > The Way That He Sings, Honest Man, Feel You, Slow Slow Tune > Smokin’ From Shootin’, Gideon, Wordless Chorus
*with Matt Ward (M. Ward)
Notes: It Still Moves 20th Anniversary Show (1st of 4 in 2023) – the album was played in full to start the show. “Just One Thing” and “One in the Same” were performed for the first time since 3/3/2018 at One Big Holiday. M. Ward opened the show with guest appearances by Carl Broemel and Jim James.