Photo: Gavin PaulIt’s been nearly five years since Jim James fell off the front of an Iowa stage and shook whatever demons were plaguing him out of the shadows – the catalyst that serves as the ethos for the My Morning Jacket frontman’s first solo effort, Regions of Light and Sound of God. Leather loafer slide-stepping like a born-again follower of Curtis Mayfield, fearlessly arching over the edge of the Vic Theatre’s photo pit to Creation of Adam finger-touch fan after fan, preaching the ambitions of “A New Life,” it appears the man’s found his muse: [LISTEN]

Babe, let’s get one thing clear
There’s much more stardust when you’re near
I think I’m really being sincere
I want a new life, a new life
With you

Shadows and light, and spirituality, are an important part of the record, of which James played in chronological full, speaking candidly to the crowd just once, at the gap between a handful of encore songs. “Chicago. Feel the light. Feel the power of this primal energy pulsating,” he buzzed, hushing sentiments down to a wide-eyed whisper, “Chicago! Where dreams come true.” This after ROLASOG‘s “God’s Love to Deliver,” and a tripped-out rainbow strobe light the artist affixed to splay the track’s brooding sax fill, right after its redemptive third verse: [LISTEN]

Straight to the source
Fate had to deliver a feeling so pure
Negating all evil, we have found the lord
In our hearts reborn

As gospel-bred as it sounds, James always had a way to remind people dancing against the sold-out rails of the theatre that the record and the production wasn’t some elaborate exercise in indie-rock catholicism, whether worshiping a false idol of a golden bear he’s been carrying around for years between songs, or bending the very idea of spirituality and worship itself with the R&B breakbeat message of “Dear One,” erupting into a fit of hair and flying-v guitar solo gnar that’s been deemed devilish since the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll: [LISTEN]

Truly it’s taken on a new meaning to me
And life and love, no written guarantee
If you like what you see, come and get it
Dear one

Photo: Gavin PaulOr maybe we completely read him wrong and the bear, his newfound soul-preacher panache, and ROLASOG are very much the metaphysical tenants of a man’s reconnection with God Almighty. EIther way, the dude owns it. At the final moments of a handful of encore songs pulled from his Monsters of Folk and New Multitudes contributions, James just stared at a pocket of fans during Woody Guthrie cover, “Changing World,” right after the first verse’s rhetorical prod: “Why am I afraid to live the life I love?” For at least 20 seconds. If you need to put the fear of God into that situation, well, that’s you’re own prerogative: [LISTEN]

Why are you afraid of life?
Like my heart and soul and mind wold love to dwell
Why am I afraid to say what I feel, what I feel and need
Why am I afraid to live the life I love?

 

Photo: Gavin Paul

Photo: Gavin Paul