Last Thursday’s Monsters of Folk show at the Granada Theatre left no doubt as to the immense talent of supergroup members Mike Mogis, Conor Oberst, M. Ward and Jim James (who, for some reason, insists on being billed as Yim Yames as part of MOF). But then again, was there ever really a question as to whether or not these musicians were important and skillful members of the modern music scene?
While the concert was most often lively, and the artists looked to be having a great time playing together, the fact remains that there never seemed to be a real, compelling reason for their getting together and forming this so-called “supergroup,” much less releasing an album.
Each artist’s individual work is far more moving, and the segments of the show in which each artist performed a few of his most-well-known tracks were the moments of the show that really resonated with the audience.
More than anything, the night showcased the individual assets of each artist: As usual, Jim James and his ethereal reverberating voice proved haunting; Conor Oberst’s shaky delivery of his poetic lyrics was absorbing; M Ward’s raspy baritone was in top form and Mike Mogis, the band’s least-known member (who has played with Oberst as part of Bright Eyes), shined while playing nearly every instrument.
The songs performed individually by these artists (particularly, Jim James’ “Bermuda Highway,” a personal favorite My Morning Jacket song of mine, or Conor Oberst’s “We are Nowhere,” from Bright Eyes’ I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning) were far more interesting than the slight, breezy MOF material, and often the songs took on new life when one of the other Monsters hung around providing backup vocals or singing a verse or two.
And, as I wrote earlier, while the band members seemed to have an excellent rapport with one another, the crowd was generally left unengaged. The usual between-song banter was almost completely cut from the show, save for a couple remarks from M Ward about growing up down the road in Ventura.
So, while the band was onstage living it up, clearly relishing the chance to play together, in the audience, it felt a bit like peeking inside of a window at a party we weren’t invited to.