A couple of years ago, pregnant Katie and I went to see R.E.M., Modest Mouse, and The National at Walnut Creek (or whatever corporate name it has now); Jackie’s first prenatal concert experience showcased some of the best (R.E.M.), most innovative and raw (Modest Mouse), and worthwhile contemporary (The National) alt-rock.
A couple of weeks ago, pregnant Katie and I went to see My Morning Jacket with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary; McLain’s first prenatal concert featured the pre-eminent live experience of Jim James and company, preceded by the mostly-Dixieland style of a New Orleans jazz institution.
The show was also one of the biggest conventions of Triangle friends and family I’ve seen in years. My brother and his wife, Katie’s sister and her husband, as well as five college friends and other acquaintances. We really appreciate the baby sitting services of the Grandparents Jones.
I’ve been waiting about six years to see MMJ, so my expectations were probably a bit inflated. As Katie and I walked to the car after the show, she asked me how I would grade it. I told her that I gave it a B for two reasons. First, the town of Cary has a noise ordinance that limits the volume (and therefore, limits the fun); there were four or five times when I was consciously irked that there wasn’t more output resulting from the band’s hard work. Second, they played too many songs from their most recent (and my least favorite) album. Even worse, the heart of the encore was the one MMJ song I detest: Highly Suspicious. So, count me among the curmudgeons who are old enough to complain about wanting to hear more of the “old stuff” from the “good old days.”
Now that I have the negative out of the way, I want to say that the band was extremely tight considering that they didn’t really tour at all in 2009 or the beginning of 2010. The final song included the PHJB in a moving (literally for Rich and me) rendition of Curtis Mayfield’s Move on Up. What’s more, they played about six of the 15 or so songs that I really wanted to hear. That’s a pretty good batting average, and it included my Jim James favorite, The Way That He Sings. Why does my mind blow to bits every time they play that song? It’s just the way that he sings, not the words that he says or the band.
In one of my fantasies of the future, McLain will come to me one day and ask about the virtues of Southern Rock and who killed it (when it needed to die gracefully). Or maybe he’ll want to know how powerful a voice can be under the command of good songwriting. Perhaps he’ll just want to know what constitutes a great live rock and roll show. We’ll listen to It Still Moves or Z and I’ll remind him that he was in attendance, sort of, in Cary of all places.