Jim James solo live at Club Laga, Pittsburgh, PA, February 22, 2004

"An evening of solo & collaborative performances featuring
 Bright Eyes, Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) & M. Ward"

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Conor Oberst/Jim James/M. Ward

Jim James asked us Sunday night to pretend we were in Carnegie Music Hall, where he had been earlier in the day and had marveled at the ceiling "beyond compare."

Like many places, it would have been better than a sold-out Club Laga for three guys with acoustic guitars. The brave trio had to compete with an active "talking section" in a crowded, smoky room.

James cut through it with a beautiful siren call of a voice. Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst did it with amazing lyrical flow. And being a lesser known, more modest talent, M. Ward, was buried by the crowd.

The three singer-songwriters are on a rare acoustic tour that finds them performing in various combos, with help from a multi-instrumentalist. Going on before the scheduled show time, Ward played a short set that should be repeated some day in quieter confines. His raspy, understated delivery was hard to appreciate, though "Vincent O'Brien," with help from James, was a standout.

James is used to singing over the guitar clatter of My Morning Jacket and could probably sing over fireworks. He has the kind of high, haunting voice -- think Neil Young, but better -- that will one day be the perfect soundtrack for a Civil War film. He might not match Neil as a writer, but it doesn't really matter what he's singing -- songs like "At Dawn" and "Bermuda Highway" were breathtaking.

Watching Conor Oberst it's almost impossible to keep the words "new" and "Dylan" out of your head. He has a compelling talk-sing that is, by turns, sweet, menacing and full of protest, and his fans -- 97 percent of them -- hang on his every word. And it's worth it when, with his remarkable phrasing, he spins off gems like "If I could scream at myself, like I was somebody else" and "If you're still free, start running away."

Oberst pulled out favorites like "Waste of Paint" and "Soon You Will Be Leaving Your Man" and previewed songs that we can only hope will be coming out soon. Next time, maybe we'll hear them in Carnegie Music Hall ... or at least the Byham.

-- Review by Scott Mervis,, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

My Morning Jacket Live 2004