Concert review: Jim James delivers politically charged show in Denver

Jim James performs at the Paramount Theater on Tuesday Nov 6, 2018. (Zack Cohen/CU Independent)

Musician Jim James provided a relaxing environment for people to unwind and let loose in at Denver’s Paramount Theater on Tuesday, despite the unsettling climate the midterms elections created in this country. 

James opened his set with “I’m Amazed,” a popular My Morning Jacket track that had been reworked to isolate just James and his guitar. “I’m Amazed” delivered eerie ties to the theme of the evening with lyrics that reflect uncertainty in a shaky political climate. James sang to an eager crowd

The words “I’m amazed by a divided nation” flowed into the second verse. The song went on, “After all is said and done, where is the justice?”

Politics were neatly worked into the show despite James’s request to take a step back to decompress. His lyrics reflect the direct uncertainty of a divided nation. A few songs later, James brought the tone back to politics with his track “Same Old Lie,” singing, “you best believe it’s the silent majority/If you don’t vote it’s on you not me”

Politics aside, the show was intimate. James and his guitar intermixed with the occasional accompaniment of a delicate club drum kit. In between songs, James gave insight into the meaning behind some of his tracks. This retreat back to the basics is emblematic of songwriters of the ’60s and ’70s selling out acoustic shows. James’s fifth track of the evening, “Just a fool,” could easily be mistaken for a lyrically toned down Bob Dylan classic.

While most of his songs have complex guitar effects and layers pulling the listener along on a sonic journey, his solo shows prove the caliber of musician James truly is. He captivated the audience with just his guitar. When he played his track “No Secrets” he bust into a jam that brought everybody closer together. Halfway through the song, even those seated in the audience began rising to their feet.

Throughout his show, James reminded the crowd that no matter how screwed up and divided the nation is, there is still so much potential and so much hope. He was the voice of reason that people were looking for on a night that came with much anxiety and unease. He reminded the crowd how much potential they have as a whole with his song “Throwback”.

Jim James performs at the Paramount Theater on Tuesday Nov 6, 2018. (Zack Cohen/CU Independent)

Years prior to his solo career, James made a name for himself with his band, My Morning Jacket. Since their most recent album, The Waterfall, James released four solo albums and has toured extensively backing them. James is also a member of The New Basement Tapes, a group of modern music’s most talented and relevant musicians. Their album, Lost On The River, is a compilation of reworked newly uncovered lyrics written by Bob Dylan. Each song on the album is written in a way that Dylan would appreciate.

James is a primary songwriter for his group, so it made perfect sense that he toured with personal and intimate songs. Throughout his set, James began his songs and stopped immediately to explain the backstory behind them.

The track “Look at you” resonated with the crowd most. James set the context behind his band’s 2008 album, Evil Urges. The track is grounded in the 2008 presidential elections. Support for President Obama was high then, but may be even higher today. James highlighted this by drawing parallels of his track to the former president and explaining how he based the subject matter on him with vocals that emulate the former president’s true potential.

The encore was a testament to James’s ability to captivate a crowd. While cliche, James played his arguably most popular solo songs during the encore. The evening was brought to a close with “State of the Art” flowing into his 2016 track “Here in Spirit,” leaving the crowd with high energy as he waved good-bye and walked humbly off the stage.

James will be playing a solo show at CU’s Macky Auditorium on May 25 for the second annual Bluebird Music Festival.

Contact CU Independent Arts Writer Zack Cohen at Zachary.W.Cohen@colorado.edu.

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