My Morning Jacket – Commodore Ballroom (Vancouver, B.C.)
While smoking pot isn’t technically legal in Vancouver, you can pretty much puff away without anyone, including the cops, giving you a hard time. Marijuana is the west coast of Canada’s #1 cash crop, which means scoring is no more difficult than picking up a six-pack of Bud in America. That makes the city home sweet-leaf home if you’re Snoop Dogg, and a cheeba-dazed paradise just waiting to be discovered for everyone else.
It was fitting, then, that My Morning Jacket’s meandering set at the Commodore seemed tailored for B.C. cannabis connoisseurs. When, halfway through, singer-guitarist Jim James copped to having enjoyed a pre-show ritual with his Louisville, Kentucky, bandmates, the righteously baked crowd roared in approval.
The night was dragging like summer in the old south, so everyone expected the horrifically hirsute frontman to announce he was higher than the Empire State Building. Instead, he revealed that the quintet had gotten primed for the show by watching a Miss U.S.A. Fitness Championship on TV.
Assuming he was telling the truth, My Morning Jacket isn’t the kind of act that gets pumped up by sporting events. But if the laid-back performance before a half-full room was a disappointment, it was mainly because of heightened expectations. The word on past Vancouver appearances was that My Morning Jacket rocked like a loaded Lynryd Skynryd with an insatiable appetite for Nashville Pussy. On this night, the group came across like space cowboys tripping on Sominex.
To be fair, every now and then the beer-bong noodling would stop and My Morning Jacket would kick ass southern-style. The high-powered “Lowdown” got the audience of 600 dancing, and “Steam Engine” started slowly but exploded into a flying-sparks rocker. But mostly MMJ played the kind of aimless, solo-heavy songs made for doing drugs and eating Pringles.
The group’s Kentucky-fried stoner rock wasn’t totally unenjoyable. Had the band been playing a Bowling Green farm during a harvest moon, “The Way That He Sings” and “Golden” would have made perfect soundtrack music. New guitarist Carl Broemel added atmospheric touches on the pedal steel, and trucker-hat-adorned keyboardist Bo Koster looked as though he’d just stepped off an Idaho combine, a visual complement to the night’s more countryish moments.
When he wasn’t impersonating the Addams Family’s beloved Cousin It, James — who redefines the term hair farmer — looked thrilled to be there. By night’s end, with My Morning Jacket working its way through an admittedly smoking closer, “Mahgeetah”, he was standing in the middle of the stage, hands clasped in prayer, grinning as if he’d just been handed the keys to the kingdom. It’s possible he was high on life, but it looked more like he was giving thanks for the lethality of B.C. bud.