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My Morning Jacket turns up heat

Much like its music, which often sounds more like a rolling tidal wave of pure electricity and energy than something so quaint as a rock song, My Morning Jacket's momentum just keeps building. It wasn't very long ago -- a Saturday night in 2003, in fact -- when frontman Jim James gazed out at a crowd that had jammed the downstairs room at the Middle East in Cambridge, visibly astonished that 500 people had shown up to hear and cheer his band from Louisville, Ky.

This past Saturday night at Avalon, James looked neither amazed nor even mildly surprised at the fact that four times as many folks had crammed into every nook and cranny of the ballroom, eager to envelop themselves in My Morning Jacket's glittery fusion of re-imagined Southern boogie, cosmic cowboy songs, and peyote-dusted psychedelia.

Just how unique and, more important, good a band is My Morning Jacket?

Consider that the group is touring in support of a new double-disc live album and companion concert DVD called "Okonokos," recorded last year at the legendary Fillmore in San Francisco. Moreover, both are terrific (and how many concert DVDs and live albums, never mind double albums, can you say that about?).

As the quintet seems to do just about every time it takes the stage, James and Co. -- guitarist Carl Broemel , bassist Two-Tone Tommy , drummer Patrick Hallahan , and keyboardist Bo Koster -- managed to match, and perhaps surpass, its own best performances on Saturday evening.

From the group's blistering guitar jams and storming armies of feedback to the celestial howl of James's voice, bathed in reverb and soaring as if from a space mountain on high, this was a mesmerizing two-hour triumph, and one that underscored MMJ's growing reputation as one of America's very best rock bands.

"Gideon," which launched the show, was an exhilarating rocket ride to the stars, and once the band members reached the rarified air of their destination -- it didn't take them long to transport themselves, and the crowd -- they showed no sign of stopping or turning back.

Instead, they thrust forward with abandon, headlong into the possibilities that awaited them, shooting toward a universe where old - guard titans like Neil Young's Crazy Horse and the Allman Brothers plugged in alongside newer sonic avatars such as Sparklehorse and the Flaming Lips. Blissfully romantic hymnals ("Lowdown") gave way to rippling, excursive epics ("Off the Record") and then exploded into something new and electric yet again, just as dazzling, just as bright.

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