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High Notes: Jim James

Peace, love, freedom and rock & roll

Written by Misha Scott • Photography by Chris Molina, Live Nation • December 12, 2016

Except for his signature shades, Jim James looked more like a conductor than a rockstar when he took the stage on Friday night at the historic downtown Orpheum Theater. He began the set with his back to the audience, facing his band. Raising his arms, he drew a swell of applause from the crowd and his fellow musicians seemed to inhale collectively. When he brought them down, the room exploded with rock ‘n’ roll.

James’ performance is a work of theater befitting the Orpheum's ornate setting. A man of few words on stage, he prefers to express himself through body language, a psychedelic light show, and, of course, synapse-melting guitar solos. A multi-talented cast of characters which included two drummers, two keyboardists, a second guitar, and an accordion, filled the large stage behind James.

After playing a set that included the entirety of his excellent 2016 album, Eternally Even, James left the stage leaving us wanting even more. When he returned, he surprised everyone by launching into not just one or two more songs, but an extended encore that stood as a set all its own. The band played impeccably cool covers from Parliament, The New Multitudes, and The Basement Tapes. They finished with “State Of The Art (A.E.I.O.U.)”, a spectacular finale of rainbow lights, and a jam to end all jams.

Other show highlights included “Here In Spirit,” an anthem of solidarity written during the election, as well as The Velvet Underground cover, "I’m Set Free". Although James spoke only a handful of words throughout the nearly two hour performance, his message could not have been more clear: peace, love, freedom.

Stray observations:

If you’re ever looking for a show to bring your parents to, I’d highly recommend this one. The girl sitting next to me was bonding with her pops over the '70s vibes and it looked like they were having a lot of fun.

James played his guitar on some sort of tripod thing I’ve never seen before. Can someone who plays guitar explain this to me?

One thing you need to know about the show:

I’m not sure if it was all the '70s covers, the old-time venue, Jim James’ Woodstock-era hair, or some combination of all of those things, but I left the show wanting to give everyone peace signs and use the phrase “far out”.

The hair in action

A photo posted by Sara (@sara) on