What is Rock ‘n Roll? In my mind, it is the music of rebellion. It is primal and urgent and unpredictable. It moves you and makes you move.
I love watching the old Beatles footage and the fans almost ready to pass out. The screaming for the Jonas Brothers, no matter how Disney will spin it, is just not the same.
There was a purity back then… an innocence and a loss of innocence, all at the same time. Listening to Rock n’ Roll you were a virgin and then… not. And then with the next Zeppelin or Who album, you were a virgin all over again… Madonna excluded.
Back at the start, Rock ‘n Roll was something different, something never really heard before. Nowadays, it’s hard to come up with something fresh and new and unheard of.
That’s why Rap and Hip Hop took over Rock ‘n Roll’s mantle for a while. It was more rebellious and newer and for a lot of us white folks, something we had never heard before.
I still contend that Rock is close to death. Who do we have to take the place of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, or U2 or The Stones?
I love that line in Almost Famous… when Jimmy Fallon as Dennis Hope says, “If you think Mick Jagger will still be out there trying to be a rock star at age fifty, then you are sadly, sadly mistaken.”
Jimmy also does this little Mick move that is brilliant, but the line stands on its own power and irony, thanks to the great Cameron Crowe.
You show me a band who has the power of a U2… or a Springsteen. I say this with no sense of irony or sarcasm or blasphemy, but seeing Bruce is as close as I have ever come to a true religious experience. He makes you realize that Rock ‘n Roll truly does have the power to move you… out of your seat, out of your head… out of your crappy day. It not only moves you up and dancing, but up and doing something… for the good of mankind.
Music is the universal language. Its sounds cut across language and accents and skin color and religion and anything else we choose to allow ourselves to be divided by. It appeals to every one of our senses.
So Rock is dead… long live Rock.
Well, okay… it’s not dead. Not yet. Hopefully not ever. And one of the reasons is a band called My Morning Jacket. I will not be as effusive as Rolling Stone magazine and call these guys the second coming… but last night’s show at the Greek hit all of rock’s notes and all of my senses.
You hear Rock, you feel it… in your chest and in your groin. You touch it, as your hands clap together, or you drum a beat on your legs or hips. Or, if you’re lucky, you feel it as you cuddle with that special someone, dancing cheek to cheek or… you get the idea.
You smell it… and oh yeah, last night we smelled a lot of it… You taste it… in the smoke from the air, or from the beer in your hand… or just by breathing in the cool, night air.
And you see it… the flashing stage lights playing with your eyes… the colors, the shapes… the beautiful young girls walking by and making you remember your more youthful days, the other guys your age looking at you and making you all remember your youthful days… the band moving and dancing and playing… Oh man, can these guys play.
This was a Rock ‘n Roll show in the best sense of the word… it was firing on all cylinders… fabulous musicianship… cool colored, prism stage lights… smoke… theatricality. It was dangerous and unpredictable… and the guys were having fun. That’s a key right there. Rock ‘n Roll has to be about having fun. When Jim James thanked people for “participating” he really meant it. And think about how important that word is to humanity… relationships… to life… to elections… PARTICIPATE!
If you don’t put it out there and leave it on the stage, then why do it. My Morning Jacket left it all out there, for us to revel in. And like the cape and towel Jim liked to wrap himself in, we were wrapped in the warmth and power of music… Rock ‘n Roll music.
The band is an eclectic mix of southern rock, country rock, psychedelic and indie rock, and I find it hard to put a tag or even a sound label on them. Imagine Jeff Buckley, Wilco, Led Zeppelin, Harry Nilsson, The James Gang, The Allman Brothers and Supertramp in a blender. Maybe that would come out as MMJ. Maybe.
Although there are definitely the standouts like Wordless Chorus, One Big Holiday and Evil Urges, a lot of their songs blend together. What you get with My Morning Jacket is more of a musical landscape, sound pictures filled with a searching and yearning. What we got last night was a good old fashioned Rock ‘n Roll show.
So, yes… Long Live Rock!