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Photo Essay by Andy Witchger: Jim James at Minneapolis’ First Avenue

Jim James’s third solo album, Uniform Distortion, is a return to his musical roots. After two releases of pulsating psychedelia channeling the darker realities of modern existence, James recaptures the restless exuberance of early My Morning Jacket. That’s not to say James has turned a blind eye to the world around him.

Like a great deal of recent art, the album was inspired by the punishing barrage of information we’re confronted with on a daily, even hourly, basis. In a release accompanying the first single and album-opener, “Just a Fool,” James reflected: “My head feels like it is exploding with the amount of information we are forced to consume on a daily basis, and how that information is so DISTORTED there is almost no longer any tangible truth. The name of my new record is Uniform Distortion because I feel like there is this blanket distortion on society/media and the way we gather our ‘news’ and important information. More and more of us are feeling lost and looking for new ways out of this distortion and back to the truth.”

Fortunately, rather than becoming bogged down in this well-worn thematic territory, James’ self deprecation and lighthearted delivery transform these feelings of claustrophobia into hopeful anthems.

This particular performance intertwined the core of Uniform Distortion with the highlights of Eternally Even and Regions of Light and Sound of God. James’ previous forays into Minneapolis touring those albums saw him take on the unlikely role of a world-weary crooner, restlessly pacing the stage sans guitar. On this night, those albums transformed into epic rockers, embracing the tonal shift of Uniform Distortion.

Hearing the prog-soul of “We Ain’t Getting Any Younger” and “Here in Spirit” reimagined as guitar-driven efforts emphasized the strength of James’ songwriting. Ironically, the first MMJ song of the night, “Golden,” was a quiet, delicate performance that silenced the crowded First Avenue venue.

As the final notes of “State of the Art” echoed during the encore, it was abundantly clear the My Morning Jacket frontman’s solo career has more than justified its existence.

Setlist:

“Over and Over”

“You Get to Rome”

“Out of Time”

“A New Life”

“Just a Fool”

“Throwback”

“No Secrets”

“Here in Spirit”

“No Use Waiting”

“All in Your Head”

“True Nature”

“Yes to Everything”

“Same Old Lie”

“We Ain’t Getting Any Younger”

Encore:

“Golden” (My Morning Jacket)

“I’m Amazed” (My Morning Jacket)

“Of the Mother Again”

“State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)”

Andy Witchger (@andywitchger) is a naturalist and concert junkie from Minneapolis. You can find his work on Bring Me The News, The Current, City Pages, and his mom’s refrigerator.

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