Went to some gigs recently in London town that couldn’t have been more different: My Morning Jacket at Somerset House and Black Breath at the Borderline. One, a stately manor by the Thames; the other a sweatbox off Tottenham Court Road.
My Morning Jacket were a welcome blast from the past only emphasised by the surroundings and the familiar faces in the crowd. The weather was ropey at best, ducking in and out of umbrellas, but the band were electric. Now it must be said, MMJ are responsible for one of the greatest gigs of my life at the Academy 3 at the University of Manchester Students’ Union in 2003 just as It Still Moves was releasesd – so they are in massive credit with me but conversely always have a lot to live up to.
Back in the UK playing the sort of venues they should’ve graduated to some time ago were it not for cancelled tours, they’re plugging new record Circuital which to my ears is a return to form after the somewhat wayward Evil Urges. Jim James loons about in the opening electronic numbers warming up the crowd before a raft of ‘oldies’. ‘Wordless Chorus’, ‘Gideon’ and ‘The Knot Comes Loose’ all from Z rocket by and people respond to the recognisable vibes. It only gets better from here with drummer Patrick Hallahan showing off his chops backed by the heart melting and blood boiling dualism of Carl Boemel’s guitar and Jim James voice especially on ‘The Way That He Sings’ from At Dawn.
‘Run Thru’ is an earthbound epic that pierces the grey skies before the urge to kick out the jams takes over on the ‘Whole Lotta Love’ style middle section of the melancholic ‘Dondante’. First single off Circuital, the good time referencing ‘Holdin’ On To Black Metal’ engenders a massive singalong as Jim arses about with a cape and towel outfit.
My Morning Jacket are a genuine treasure – a classic American band – earnest yet experimental and endlessly enthusiastic. A band still going places.
That brings me to the fast up and coming blackened hardcore crew Black Breath who take to the Borderline’s pokey stage at 21:30 precisely for 90 minutes of raging satanic rock and roll. Their fans look like you’d imagine (though certainly not all male) i.e. tattoo’d, black shirt wearing metalheads. Their mixture of brute hardcore force and more sinewy black metal guitar lines works. Even if it didn’t Black Breath’s sheer desire would’ve forced the audience’s appreciation. As it was a hefty pit emerged and fans communed with singer Nate McAdams at will giving just as much on the two new songs they debuted from upcoming second record as they did to renowned shitkickers like ‘I Am Beyond’.
But the best part was the chat with the twitching, adrenaline fuelled Black Breath sticksman J Byrum who, while coated in sweat, told me and a mate about how poor Metallica had been at Sonisphere..”I’ve got their records but I don’t have to like them now.” Nuff said, the new rubs up against the old.