Jim James may be the greatest frontman in rock music right now. No matter what he is involved with, he always creates a top-notch live performance, whether it’s the folky Appalachian Voices or a three-hour long, Red Rocks epic with My Morning Jacket. He is currently touring in support of his second solo record, Eternally Even, and we decided to check it out live in the new Fillmore in Philadelphia.
The Fillmore is situation in the growing Fishtown entertainment district. The new venue is a big space with distinctive Fillmore-esque chandeliers hanging from the ceilings. The lobby featured a live DJ, spinning some great tunes. It was definitely preferable over James’ choice of venue in New York, the warehouse-like Terminal 5.
The opening act was fellow Louisville band Twin Limb. Their set was fantastic, focusing on material from their new record, Haplo. Frontwoman Lacey Guthrie’s voice was ethereal, floating gracefully over her accordion, while Kevin Ratterman acted at themad genius behind an amalgamation of keys, pedal boards, guitars. All of this was tied together by drummer Maryliz Bender, whose energy was infectious to those on her side of the stage.
Jim James then took the stage, backed by Twin Limb along with drummer Dave Givan and bassist Seth Kauffman of Floating Action. The first half of the set was a great mix of Eternally Even and his previous solo record, Regions of Light and Sound of God, and it started with “Hide in Plain Sight” from James’ new album. The band brought new life (pun intended) to the older tracks, and really made the new tracks shine. The band left, one-by-one to give Givan the stage for a drum solo at the end of “Dear One”.
The band then rejoined Givan for “A New Life”, during which Jim preached love and peace to the audience. After a couple more tracks from the new record, “In The Moment” and a truly epic performance “We Ain’t Getting Any Younger”, the band launched into a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “I’m Set Free”. Jim, when not situated behind his guitar which was on a stand in the middle of the stage, wandered around and engaged the audience with open arms. The set ended with another run of new tracks, “Same Old Lie”, “The World’s Smiling Now”, and “Eternally Even”.
The band came back for an encore and played some other tracks from Jim’s repertoire. They played a wonderful version of “Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)” from the Monsters of Folk record. He followed that up with a groovy performance of “Of The Mother Again” from his first record. Then, they dusted off “Down on The Bottom”, a track from the Bob Dylan tribute New Basement Tapes that has become a fan-favorite at My Morning Jacket shows. They closed it out with an incredible, roaring rendition of “State of The Art (A.E.I.O.U.)”.
The Fillmore Philadelphia rocked hard this past Friday. Jim James reminded me why so many years ago I found him so engaging. His warm, inviting presence along with truly some of the most I’ve experienced. Seeing the songs from Eternally Even live gave me even more of an appreciation for the record. I had the pleasure of seeing him play on the Regions tour 8 times. That made the songs a bit tiring, but the current tour has brought such life to them, they feel brand new. Jim James’ tour continues through the middle of December. Don’t miss it.
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