Concert Review: Jim James, The Phoenix, April 24th

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Sir Jim James, you and your creations are the Regions of Light and Sound of God to my senses. See what I did there? The sheer talent of this man is incomparable.

I might have said this about a few other bands in my reviews, but Jim James definitely fits in the category of his show being more of an experience than just watching a band play their instruments for a crowd. It’s something difficult to even put into words the way that man transforms on stage and tells his stories.

Jim James - Saxin' it up

Jim James – Saxin’ it up

As he emerged onto the Phoenix stage, he took us through his entire album. An autobiographical tale, also based on one of the first graphic novels “Gods’ Man” by Lynd Ward, made entirely in wood cuts, is a haunting and beautiful tale of a man who makes a deal with a stranger to rise to prominence in the art world, only to fall after he is disillusioned with the corrupt nature of the business. (Sound familiar musicians and artists who have dealt with the business side?) James, obviously, drew parallels with this character after a bad fall back in 2008 with My Morning Jacket. His friend gave him this novel to read. Wordless, it relies on its hauntingly beautiful deco era images, carved into wood, to convey its story. I won’t tell you hot it ends, it’s worth checking out yourself; but for James, his story obviously ended pretty well. He fell in love, holed himself up, wrote and recorded this entire album himself.

On stage, James is a larger than life persona, telling us his story through song. In the happier numbers, like single “A New Life”, literally one of my favorite love songs of all time now, he was dancing; doing the twist, jazz hands, the whole shebang. When it came to the darker moments, like in “All is Forgiven”, a song that could soundtrack the portion of Jason and The Argonauts when the skeletons rise from the grave, the lights poured red upon him, transforming him into a demon-like imp, creeping around the stage, with a maniacal possessed face and frantic movements. It was like watching a Haitian voodoo ceremony. When it hit its instrumental buildup, his voice hit a high, the lights turning off every time the sound would pause.

He played for about two hours in length. First covering his entire solo album, with only one track switched in the order on the album. He didn’t pause between songs to speak to the audience, he acknowledged us through heavy eye contact, touching fingers with the audience, and an occasional fist bump. It’s clear he feeds off the energy the audience provides him; James would focus in on a member of the crowd really into the song and just suck the energy into his performance.

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After they left the stage and re-emerged for the encore, it was like another, lighter band. James said hello to the audience, thanked us for being there, spoke about this dreary, rainy  night in Toronto and proceeded into a seven song encore that included My Morning Jacket songs, Monsters of Folk songs and the New Multitudes, his Woody Guthrie cover band, playing Changing World.

All in all, it was an excellent night, filled with sheer talent that James exudes and a rarely met passion for the creation of music as an expressive art-form.

P.S. Watching Jim James shred on guitar, shred on sax, shred on vocals, pluck perfectly on acoustic is unreal. He’s a one-man show, but props to his band, who took his solo vision and turned it into a larger than life reality.

Posted on by lauren in Concerts

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