Right foot, left foot, right foot again; one delicate pause, a shift in weight, and a small step backward. The eyes in the room follow the movement of his every muscle, as if there are powerful secrets etched under his heels. Smoke around hair, hair around beard, his gingerly steps have brought him to his guitar, which he suddenly wields like a lightning rod, conducting the scattered energy of the room into something searing and meaningful. He solos, we scream, and it hits us right in the chest. If Sunday is a day of worship, it made sense we’d be spending it with Jim James.
The My Morning Jacket frontman, whose music has been known for its mesmeric effect, had Terminal 5 in a very good place. Backed by the ethereal sound of Twin Limb, who had opened the show with a strong set of their own, Yim’s deep vocals were in perfect focus – and a much-needed remedy for a city in distress. He sank smoothly into songs from his new protest album, Eternally Even, which was released, very intentionally, four days before the election, and features mobilizing lyrics like “If you don’t vote, it’s on you, not me.”
The singer and activist, who had attended an anti-hate rally in Brooklyn’s Adam Yauch Park earlier in the day, brought the same feeling of equality to the stage that night. “With all the hatred and all this crazy energy, it’s so inspiring to see people come together,” said James. “Every walk of life, every faith, every color of the rainbow, we’re all the same. And it’s amazing to see us come together and amazing to see how powerful that is. Today was such a beautiful example of that,” he said of the rally, “because I think we all feel sometimes that we’re not important, like one of us doesn’t matter – but every single one of us do. And when we come together, we form something so much more powerful than any of us alone.
This sentiment rang through in his soothing setlist, which alternated between the new LP and 2013’s Regions of Light and Sound of God. It all started with “Hide In Plain Sight,” “Know Til Now,” “In the Moment,” and “Dear One,” which culminated in a thunderous drum break. “True Nature,” and “The World’s Smiling Now” carried us to the energizing peak of “A New Life,” followed by a cathartic cover of The Velvet Underground’s “I’m Set Free” – just as relevant today as it was in 1969. Between songs, James’ reassuring silhouette strolled quietly through the smoke. A scintillating blend of reds and blues poured through the square lights sprinkled behind him.
The atmosphere was warm and soothing, like a crackling fire, and he and Twin Limb kept the flame going with “Here in Spirit,” “We Ain’t Getting Any Younger,” “Same Old Lie,” and “Eternally Even.” James often switched from guitar to keys, powering their immersive, synth-fueled grooves from behind his dark sunglasses. “As always, it is a privilege and an honor to be here with you today,” he told his fans, before submerging himself in a generous encore of “Of The Mother Again,” a cover of “Dear God” by Monsters of Folk, “Down on the Bottom” from The New Basement Tapes, and his own “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.).”
Suddenly, James’ plea for equality, Eternally Even, had a dual meaning; one that manifested itself physically in the trembling bodies gently swaying to the beat. As the thick chords swelled around them, the crowd themselves were even – not just even-tempered or even-keeled; but even in spirit. At peace. The only mystery left was how long they could make it last.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley