By: Josh Chasin
“The Weight,” “Whipping Post” are highlights as the band throws a primal blues party
The boys hit tonight with fire in their bellies, and had a grand old time. It was a more mono-chromatic show than the multi-colored gig of the prior evening; tonight it was straight to the deep dark well.
You hear Gregg play around with the “Layla” piano cods during the opening tuning, before finally they’re off into “Don’t Want You No More,” and Bam! They’re right there on the money. Warren is all over the transitional blues line that leads into “Not My Cross to Bear,” playing from the gut on the intro. Derek enters with a full, loud shmear of tone that gives way to a bluesy slide solo, Warren takes the energy even higher right out of Derek’s part.
The music never quite ends as “Not My Cross” is done; Gregg quickly switches seats, and once he’s situated in front of the appropriate keyboard the band is off again, hitting a bluesy, up-tempo shuffle. Derek solos over some rhythm work by Warren and Gregg, Oteil faces off against the rest of the band, grinning as Warren takes a scorching lead. Derek provides some jazzy shuffle chording as the extended jam winds on; then finally Warren looks left, looks right, and throws the switch into “Done Somebody Wrong.” Warren offers up a killer solo, fingers, not slide, playing like a man possessed. Out of the vocals Derek does that slidy, yaya-sounding wail he does, then finishes off with some glassy slide.
Warren and Derek do the solo electric country blues trade-off prior to “Hoochie Coochie Man.” Warren takes the first run and invokes the voodoo; then Derek drifts off almost into “Maki Madni;” Warren does long, electrifying slide run all the way up the neck, then Derek, then the band thunders into the evil “Hoochie” riff. Warren works up a squall; Oteil drives the insistent beat of the riff, Derek takes a tough solo.
It looks like “One Way Out” is an audible, as Derek confers with Warren, than each of them go off and tell the rest of the players something. “One Way Out” is a rollicking barrelhouse, to the obvious delight of the crowd. Next Derek takes off from the V chord as the band shimmies into “Highway 61,” a song they are finding their way with, and which is beginning to sound like they’ve been playing it for years. Warren hits the note, nailing his first solo; then the vocals, then Derek takes a solo that is more of a dance. The final vocals, and Derek solos over an extended one chord vamp, then Warren stings like red-hot, glowing forged steel. Mr. Haynes is in the saddle tonight. Derek plays with some disharmony on the licks as the song closes.
Again, almost no stop as the drummers begin making a hazy swampy space, and Derek rings and rains down notes over a dark, shady groove. Warren takes the ball, climbing with hotter and hotter licks, suggestive of the song to come. Then Warren turns over into the opening lick of “Who’s Been Talkin’.” Warren offers a clinic in Tear Your Head Off 101, before stepping forward for the first verse. Derek solos over a bed of organ on the bridge, a thrilling whirlwind ride, pulling up abruptly as Warren comes in with the lick of the song again. Then vocals, and the band slows and stretches space, and the two guitars bubble forth, swapping licks in that slow twisty space, gliding on to the close.
“Melissa” is by the book, and exquisite.
The set closes in generous fashion with “Jessica.” After the theme is stated, the drums lay out a chunky space, Warren hits the chords, Derek improvises. Then the rest of the band kicks in, Oteil is hitting you in the chest as Derek rolls around, his solo getting faster and more melodic. Derek again plays a tease of something I can’t recognize—the same melody he’s teased before this run—then he pulls the melody from the strings with his right hand, hitting into the transition lick with Warren; Warren takes off, going 80 miles an hour right out of the gate, as Derek mind melds with Oteil over on the right. Warren is loud and fast, tossing in a “Mountain Jam” tease. Then he cools down, and he and Derek are like cool droplets of rain on a pond. Then the band moves seamlessly into the space that heralds a return to the theme. They hit it hard, extend the licks, wring everything there is out of a big hard closer. A hell of a run-up to intermission.
Derek and Warren come out alone to begin set two with “Preachin’ Blues.” Then Susan Tedeschi joins the fray on guitar, and Bruce Willis (yes, Bruce Willis) is lurking behind Warren’s left shoulder on harp. Derek peels off the intro lick, a slow 12-bar blues, and Warren sings the vocals to “The Sky is Crying.” (He sings, “I’m lookin’ all over New York City for my baby…”) Susan takes the second verse. Bruce Willis, who has a hard time getting in a lick, takes a solo turn and dies hard with a vengeance. He has nicely acquitted himself. Warren lays it all bare with searing lines and then hits the vocals; then Suzie T shows the boys a little blues of her own before singing the next verse, a commanding bluesy vocal presence, she has slain us.
Susan stays on to provide the lead vocals for a stellar rendition of “The Weight,” as Ron Holloway joins the band on sax. Susan sings the first two verses, Derek solos, then points to Holloway, who plays a big, swinging sour sax solo, then back to Derek as Susan and Warren huddle. Derek’s part is brief, then Susan sings the next verse, Warren does some low-down playing, Susan back on the vocals, then Derek leads the band beneath her singing on the outro, doing the yellow shred dance. Holloway pulls the band into a new riff, then a vocal vamp over band to close. Highlight; the song has morphed through the run from a tentative blues to a confident swampy rave-up.
A deep grinding “Can’t Lose What You Never Had” is next; what was once a lick is now a stomp. Derek’s solo is a cautionary tale, then Gregg sings over bass and drums, then the band swells as Warren plays defiant, powerful, bluesy lines that pull against the song. The band parts, leaving Oteil and the drums; Holloway joins, playing variations on the riff, then bright rock’n’roll sax (think, “down the shore.”) Soon Oteil is leading the band through a funk jam behind Holloway, who climbs to the sax version of Derek’s frenetic yellow light, then falling into a groove, as Derek fires off incendiary lines over the top. Then Warren and Derek anchor the proceedings with some Stax/Volt rhythm guitars, the bedrock for a Derek/Warren/Holloway round robin of thrilling funk sunshine.
After the heights last night’s rendition of “Black Hearted Woman” reached, “Leave My Blues at Home” is a selection ripe with possibilities. Odin, the Norse god of wisdom and death, is pounding out the riff from some terrifying place. Then a brief flurry of guitar statements, and then all is still save the drummers…
…Nineteen minutes flow by, and Oteil enters with a solo melody, soon backed by choppy drums and Derek’s rhythm work. A tribal beat gives way to a flying run as the rest of the band returns, and Oteil signals to the drums. The music comes to an almost full rest… and then the band is onto the Bo Diddley beat of “No One Left to Run With.” Derek provides a fat, heavy salvo leading into a machine gun run, then the vocals. The band is fierce on the beat. Oteil busts a string (I think) and the band stretches perfectly while he changes basses, Derek zings us at the same time Oteil returns and hits the beat. Then some hot shaking and baking on the back end.
“Whipping Post” is purposeful, yet not quite as dark as usual. Derek squeezes out a big rubbery razor of sound, then departs on a solo that is entirely impressionistic. The band hits the racing section under Derek, who goes so far up the neck his right hand is in the way of his left. Gregg is commanding on the vocals (“My friends tell me…”) and Warren begins a violin-like solo, slow, leaving a lot of room in the air, before moving on to guitar heroics; Derek’s right hand becomes a blur as he strums furiously along. There is a long wind-down, the landing extended by Derek, Oteil and Warren, each of whom refuses to let it end. Finally Warren throws down the chord that turns the jam into the march, Warren sizzles on the march section, breathing fiery life. It is a dazzling display as they lay the song at Gregg’s door for the climactic vocal section. And over twenty minutes after it has begun, “Whipping Post”—and the show—is done. An over-the-top way to end a Friday night.
Don’t Want You No More >
Not My Cross To Bear
jam > Done Somebody Wrong
Hoochie Coochie Man
One Way Out
Who’s Been Talking
Preachin’ Blues (just Warren & Derek)
The Sky Is Crying (Susan Tedeschi, guitar, vox; Bruce Willis,harp)
The Weight (Susan Tedeschi, vox; Ron Holloway, sax)
Can’t Lose What You Never Had (Ron Holloway, sax)
Leave My Blues At Home > (Ron Holloway, sax)
Jabuma > Bass >
No One Left To Run With