My Morning Jacket have a reputation as one of the best live bands around, and their tour kickoff Tuesday night at the Alabama Theater in Birmingham showed why. After a strong opening set by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which concluded with a surprise guest vocal by My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James on "Louisiana Fairytale and St. James Infirmary," MMJ took the stage and dove into "One Big Holiday." For more than two hours, the quintet played a representative selection from their catalog, from the rocking "Off the Record" and "Touch Me I'm Going To Scream" to the more laid-back "Thank You Too." James' vocals ranged from sweet to soaring (an impressive performance from a man who once cited Kermit the Frog as an influence).
Mastodon's Birmingham, AL, tour-opener Friday night at the 450-person capacity WorkPlay Theater was packed with frontman Brent Hinds' hometown friends, who slugged beers, moshed, and threw their devilhorns to the sky from start to finish. It was a big party in a small house -- and the local metalheads put on quite a show. After opening sets from Kylesa and Intronaut, Mastodon took the stage and opened with "Oblivion," the first track off new album Crack the Skye.