By some strange coincidence, it’s ten years ago to the day (as I write this) that what turned out to be my ‘Night to Remember’ took place. My Morning Jacket had long been a band I’d admired but not yet managed to see live. The ‘Circuital‘ tour of 2011 offered a chance to put that right, and while the album itself didn’t quite scale the same heights as ‘It Still Moves’ or ‘Z’, it was still a strong record. The band had a reputation for elemental country-psychedelia wig outs and I was impatient to experience them.
By the time MMJ reached London on 7 November 2011, they’d already played Glasgow, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester over the past 5 days. The band were in their stride and The Roundhouse felt pretty packed as opening numbers ‘Victory Dance’ and ‘First Light‘ were belted out. ‘Off the Record’ came next followed by ‘I’m Amazed’, which would turn out to be the last song we’d hear for nearly an hour.
It took me a moment to realise something was amiss about half way through the song when the house lights went up. Probably just a lighting glitch, I assumed. Jim James was certainly oblivious as he remained doubled over his axe, deep into the type of blistering solo I’d been hoping for. But pretty soon, the PA was cut and there was another, less welcome sound. The band looked around in bemusement as a crew member ran on-stage to whisper in James’ ear and usher them quickly off stage. The fire alarm was going off and the building was being evacuated.
The realisation of what was going on was painted on the faces of everyone around as we were brought back to earth with a bump. Moments later I was standing among nearly 3,000 others in a drizzly North London car park sandwiched between Morrison’s and the East Coast mainline. We waited for what seemed like an eternity and were eventually allowed back in after the fire brigade gave the all clear about 45 minutes later. But as we filed back in to the venue in reverse order to how we came out, I suddenly found myself within touching distance of the stage, rather than somewhere near the bar peering past a pillar. Every cloud has a silver lining, as they say.
The rest of the set was like watching a wild animal, wounded but defiant. ‘Dondante‘ hit the 20 minute mark even before the sax solo started. ‘Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Part 2′ lived up to its name, ‘Magheetah’ was majestic and ‘One Big Holiday’ brought the house down. Perhaps fearing a backlash from disgruntled ticket holders, the venue curfew was thrown to the wind and we all eventually staggered out onto Chalk Farm Road somewhere after midnight. I missed the last tube home, but didn’t regret it for a moment.