My Morning Jacket (Supported By Junior Senior / Ima Robot / Keane) - Astoria, London
In a bizarre combination of bands appearing tonight at the Astoria, up-and-coming Keane open proceedings at six-thirty to a sparse auditorium. Everyone's throwing the typical Coldplay comparisons at the band, but Keane are different because as a three-piece they lack guitar instrumentation. Their fraught songs are delivered well enough on stage, but as a live act they will sadly always be limited until they have at least two albums worth of songs and an original approach to delivering them to an audience. Obviously, their rich piano-driven songs will sound fine on record, but before the hype drives into fourth gear be warned that this is a band still in the making. Even so, This Is The Last Time sounds as good as ever, and lead singer Tom Chaplin does indeed have a strong voice.
Late-eighties revisionists Ima Robot freak out on stage next, and even the LA band's lead singer Alex Ebert is attempting a little too hard to appear as a cross between Richard Blank and Robert Smith. Still, some of the songs are delivered with such frenetic enthusiasm that it's hard not to think you're watching a high school band in the film Heathers. However, the band's impression is let down slightly because they leave all of their good numbers till the end, such as 12=3 (Here Come The Doctors), Dynomite and Black Jettas; at which point the audience is unsure whether to take them seriously or not. Despite this, some of the tunes are strong enough to warrant seeking out the record should it finally be released in the UK.
You'd think Junior Senior would be the worst possible support act for My Morning Jacket, but somehow Jim James is a massive fan of the colourful Scandinavian retro-poppers, and so we are treated to a fun, bouncy half-hour set which confirms that the band are a much better live act than you'd initially give them credit for. Rather than rely on camp novelty and throwaway charm, Junior & Senior win the crowd over instantly, in a set of songs completely culled from album D-D-D-Don't Stop The Beat, starting with Go Junior Go Senior and ending with the electroclash stomper White Trash. Move Your Feet takes us back to the sweaty summer of 2003, and it appears that in Junior Senior we have the twenty-first century B-52's, and it's about time.
Finally, My Morning Jacket take to the stage, and leader Jim James is completely barefoot. Let's hope he didn't pick up any splinters. Not that he would have cared anyway, as James rocks from the get-go. Launching into the monstrously epic One Big Holiday, which would no doubt have closed many other bands' concerts, the Kentucky boys are determined to win over every single member of the crowd, even those who insist on talking loudly to their friends as if at a social club. My Morning Jacket lost two members recently and so have a new, evolved lineup, but the way these guys play together would give you the impression they were all in a band since birth. I Will Sing You Songs follows nicely and reduces the pace to a calmer level, but before you know it older songs such as Lowdown and The Way That He Sings and newer ones such as Easy Morning Rebel are spicing up the set list. James doesn't waste his time chatting to the audience, and we only hear him speak outside of song on two occasions, but we aren't there to dabble first hand on his charisma. Let's face it, My Morning Jacket are one of the best live bands in the business at the moment, and there's no reason why they couldn't hold a venue three times the size of the Astoria should word of mouth continue to spread. By the time they perform the spine-chillingly epic Steam Engine, it's hard not to envy James in every aspect, and not just for his very Allman Brothers-esque long hair. Jumping straight into breezy rocker Mahgeetah, it's not hard staying on the high reached by the previous song. When the encore contains the intense marathon Run Thru, it feels like a second layer of icing on the cake. Whenever they play the UK, make sure you catch My Morning Jacket, and whilst you are there be sure to buy It Still Moves, seeing as it was the best album of 2003.