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Jim James Shreds through Uniform Distortion at First Avenue, with help from Amo Amo

Jim James at First Avenue
Jim James - photo by Laura Buhman

Jim James returned to Minneapolis Tuesday night. The tour, dubbed “Uniform Distortion,” saw the My Morning Jacket frontman and his band turn their amplifiers up to 11 for a blistering set of rock, drawing heavily from Uniform Distortion, James’ guitar-heavy 2018 release.

Though gritty guitar-rock heroics would be on the menu for later in the evening, the night started off on a more psychedelic note. Openers Amo Amo, a young band from Los Angeles, brought together rock, soul, and funk with a pop sensibility. Their sound was psychedelic and their playing focused, with smooth and dexterous guitar work.

Amo Amo at First Avenue
Amo Amo – photo by Laura Buhman

At one point, one of the members remarked to the crowd “we can tell from up here that you guys have soul.” The audience could’ve said the same thing to the band on stage, as they played with real feel. Their excellent, danceable grooves complemented the heavier sound that James and his band would bring to the stage during the headlining set.

Amo Amo at First Avenue
Amo Amo – photo by Laura Buhman

And what a headlining set it would be. Backed by a relatively small band (which included two members of Amo Amo singing backup), James played what has to be the most guitar-centric show many in the crowd have seen him play, with or without My Morning Jacket. Though he’s always been known to be a great player, guitar-rock has, especially in recent years, been just one component of his sound; guitar-rock has mixed with pop, soul, and rhythm and blues rather than been the center of it.

Jim James at First Avenue
Jim James – photo by Laura Buhman

On Uniform Distortion, that balanced changed significantly, making it arguably the most guitar-heavy album he’s been a part of since It Still Moves. The rawness of the album was reflected in the set. It could even be said that that rawness defined the set.

Nearly every track from the album was played, each featuring the visceral multi-guitar attack of James and his band. While James would occasionally play a tune from one of his other solo albums (“A New Life” stood out), these would primarily function as a change of pace from the shredding happening during the Uniform Distortion songs.

Jim James at First Avenue
Jim James – photo by Laura Buhman

Naturally, solos provided many of the standout moments during the night. Those found during the excellent “Out of Time” and “Yes to Everything” in particular served as highlights.

Though James’ stellar playing comes as no surprise to those who have followed his career, it was still spectacular to watch. While there were sounds and cuts from his catalog left unexplored, the show certainly left a strong and lasting impression.

Author: Aaron Williams

Written by Aaron Williams

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