The difference between a young buzz band and a primed-and-polished touring act shone apparent last night at the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park, which hosted My Morning Jacket
with Long Beach's Avi Buffalo
opening the show. Avi Buffalo's youthful innocence might be its best selling point, but when paired against the well-oiled international touring machine that is Jim
James and My Morning Jacket, it shows that they'll need more than prodigious songwriting and cutesy stage banter to hang at this level.
Sans keyboard player Rebecca Coleman, Avi Buffalo opened with its hit "Summer Cum," playing to more or less an empty theater. Right off, front man Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg's boyish falsetto didn't have the balls for a venue the size of the Greek.
His vocals would sound a touch sparse throughout their set, which was a rundown of the band's self-titled debut. Sounding best when drummer Shariden Riley doubled Zahner-Isenberg's vocal on "Whats In It For," Avi Buffalo's next step should be adding useful vocal arrangements to fill out big rooms like the Greek.
On the positive side, Zahner-Isenberg's impressive guitar chops match his songwriting gift; he flexed nuts taking solos in almost every song, his Stratocaster dripping with reverb and delay effects as he whipped his band into a psychedelic frenzy, much to the approval of audience members arriving early for the headliners, My Morning Jacket.
Speaking of, My Morning Jacket are consummate professionals in peak-prime form. Though he said about three words to the audience the entire night, Jim
Jones James commanded attention, with his range-y vocals sounding clear and pristine (like Neil Young without the shrill edge), strong throughout the entire two hour-plus set.
What makes MMJ great is how they sound big, even during quiet parts--evident during "Golden" from the It Still Moves record, and "Wonderful ( The Way I Feel)." On "Dondante,"
Jones James cultivated an eerie theremin-like vocal over a solo acoustic, after which the band blew up the chorus, yielding whoops and fist-pumps from the audience.
It was this sort of quiet-loud dynamic that prevailed throughout the show. Things got a little same-y at times; the Deadheads behind me became ADD and started chanting "Further!" during "Circuited" and "Where to Begin," but that was nullified when the band took synth-ey turn playing "Tonight I Wanna Celebrate With You" from the Z album. The set stretched a bit long for casual fans, some of whom left before the encore.
Critics Bias: I'm sad that I'm missing Phish this year.
Overheard in the Crowd:
(On Avi Buffalo): "They remind me of Game Theory; it's an obvious influence."
The guy next to me suggested I listen to Mike Nesmith's post-Monkees country rock records to get a better idea of where MMJ's sound came from.
Random Notebook Dump:
For a man with the physique of Jack Black, Jim
James is nimble and light on his feet, performing Chuck Berry one-legged hops across the stage.
Set List: Avi Buffalo
Five Little Sluts
Cant I Know
Truth Sets In
Whats In It For
Remember Last Time
Setlist: My Morning Jacket
It Beats For You
Where To Begin
Touch Me I'm Going to Scream (Part 1)
Tonight I Wanna Celebrate With You
Smokin' From Shootin'
End of Run Thru
Touch Me I'm Going to Scream (Part 2)
Off the Record
One Big Holiday