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Presenting the Red Hat Amphitheater

Well, better late than never: We're at the tail end of season three, and the city of Raleigh has finally found a title sponsor for the Downtown Raleigh Amphitheater. Henceforth, the 5,600-capacity outdoor concert venue will be known as the Red Hat Amphitheater, as sponsored by open-source software company Red Hat (a downtown Raleigh tenant since 2011).

The deal is effective immediately and runs for five years, into September 2016. According to Doug Grissom with the Raleigh Convention Center, Red Hat is paying $235,000 a year, which comes to $1.175 million over the course of the deal.

Since opening in June 2010, the amphitheater has hosted big acts including Mumford & Sons, Wiz Khalifa and My Morning Jacket. There are seven events still to go this season, highlighted by Florence + the Machine on Sept. 21 and Gotye on Oct. 1.

My Morning Jacket plays Raleigh

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RALEIGH – Jim James, psychedelic-shaman frontman of the Kentucky rock band My Morning Jacket, has this...thing he does with his voice that’s rather remarkable. It’s a special effect that’s hard to describe, because phrases like “high lonesome wail” seem inadequate. And it’s not even something as simple as projection. It’s almost the opposite of that, in fact.

When James really lets loose, it feels as if he somehow opens up a hole in the universe and lets it pour through his voice, producing a howl that seems to emanate from the coldest, furthest reaches of deep space. To his credit, James doesn’t overdo this effect. But when he breaks it out, it’s amazing.

Sunday night found My Morning Jacket playing the final date of its tour at the Downtown Raleigh Amphitheater. Between the headliner and opening act Band of Horses, it was a generous dose of American roots rock from the beard-and-gimmie-cap division. The hairy part of that description especially goes for James. You heard him fine; but between his thick beard and mane of hair, it was almost impossible to get a good look at his face.

Following an agreeable hour from Band of Horses, My Morning Jacket came onstage accompanied by waves of trippy ambient sound effects and kicked off with “Rollin’ Back,” a song that has evolved a great deal since the 2003 studio version. It’s still as spacy as ever, but with lots more of a hard-rock pulse.

Classic-rock overtones were definitely the order of the day, especially on the songs from My Morning Jacket’s most recent effort “Circuital” – an album whose overall vibe is reminiscent of The Who circa “Quadrophenia.” Over the course of two-plus hours, the band variously evoked Pink Floyd (with lasers throbbing at seizure-inducing paces), the Grateful Dead and that fictional band from the ’70s-rock movie “Almost Famous.”

Jerry Garcia, the late Grateful Dead icon, would have loved this bunch. Completing the Dead-friendly feeling, there were a few “twirlers” dancing about in the crowd, acting out My Morning Jacket’s extended jams. For all the instrumental fireworks, however, almost every song proceeded at a deliberatepace. The occasional jam that accelerated to anything faster than mid-tempo was rare enough to be startling.

With the songs flowing into each other seamlessly, there was no between-song chatter to speak of. Underrated as a guitarist, James got in some pretty good licks on his Flying V guitar and the entire band played quite well. But James’ voice was still the main draw, especially when he’d hit that high, spooky place and evoke choirs of unearthly angels.

It even worked at quieter volumes, like the acoustic encore version of “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)” with Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell out for a vocal cameo. The rest of Band of Horses also joined the headliner onstage during the encore for a rousing cover of George Harrison’s “Isn’t It a Pity.”

But it wasn’t.

My Morning Jacket moves on

My Morning Jacket plays the Triangle Friday night, so click on through for verbiage past and present about the band and its doings.

My Morning Jacket bringing Preservation Hall Jazz Band to Cary

Looks like we've got our first really big show of 2010 set for Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary. My Morning Jacket will play there April 30 on an intriguing double-bill with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, according to tour dates released by the band. Ticket details to come, but that sounds like a very cool evening.

ADDENDUM: Also today comes word that Widespread Panic will return to Walnut Creek for a multi-night stand, April 23-24. Tickets go on sale next Friday, Feb. 5.

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