My Morning Jacket is generally regarded as one of the best live bands on the planet, but until Okonokos — a live double album and, eventually, a concert DVD — the electricity of the band’s live show has never been captured. My Morning Jacket’s stock has skyrocketed since the release of 2005’s Z and more recently as the result of a marathon three-hour set at Bonaroo, a slot opening for Pearl Jam and a performance with the Boston Pops. Okonokos, recorded over two shows at San Francisco’s historic Fillmore last November, strikes while the iron is still hot and serves as a perfect segue way until the next long-player arrives.
The twenty-one-song collection encompasses My Morning Jacket’s career, spanning from 1999’s The Tennesse Fire through Z (which almost appears in its entirety), and even touching on 2002’s split EP with Songs: Ohia. And not surprisingly, Jim James and crew are on fire all over Okonokos. “Wordless Chorus” throbs and sails, boosting the passion and delicacy of an already perfect song. On “Gideon,” they crank the feedback up and let James howl from his bones to create a magical mysticism lacking on record. “Anytime” is frantic, urgent and very loose on the hinges. “Dondante” spirals for eleven minutes, ranging from reflective and wistful to bloody murder and back again. “Mahgeetah” and “Dancefloors” lack some luster compared to the recorded versions, but the collection’s hits outweigh its misses.
And the band brings such a fresh, new dimension to the music. It’s been easy to criticize the overly long songs and jam tendencies of a band that liked to roam wild on their songs. Finding the nuggets of brilliance took some sifting. On Z, the band members condensed their ideas and expunged the overkill. But on Okonokos, James is all over the place, this time running free in a self-controlled environment. The jams do not overstay their welcome, and James injects the subdued moments with a burst creativity to make them interesting.
Honestly, with material this strong, all the band members really needed to do was show up. These songs have the ability to take care of themselves, and the accolades and reputation are valid. But throughout the two discs, the band is as concise, tight and precise as it is on record. Couple the immaculate playing with a contagious, everlasting energy, and you have a true representation of My Morning Jacket on top of its game.
Label: http://www.atorecords.com/Concert DVD preview