There is a trade-off with the guest-heavy shows; you get some magical, once-in-a-lifetime moments, but the flow of the show can seem a bit choppy. Instead of one long narrative arc, you get more of a short story anthology…
The “Midnight Rider” opening is a sprightly version; then “Don’t Keep me Wonderin’.” On the end, Oteil erupts in joy, bending from the waist; Greg is moved to actually stop playing, and raise his hands in the air. The band tumbles through the pocket to the close. Then a slow groove intro with some Warren nice slide builds into the “Done Somebody Wrong” shimmy.
Next up is the new instrumental; it seems to meander a bit at first, then Derek brings some bite, and the song climaxes nicely, ending in ringing, lingering tone. Then the Asbury Jukes Horns take their places on the right of the stage, over past Oteil, for Warren’s rendition of “Into the Mystic.” Derek’s twangy slide lines give way to Gregg’s swelling organ, then the chorus; it is a moment. Then the horns, then horns, organ and vocals, and it is sweet soul music; the band rocks your gypsy soul. As always, the Jukes horn section is spot-on, tight, campy swingin’ fun.
Speaking of which, Warren brings out “TV’s Bruce Willis” for “One Way Out.” Last time he sat in, I thought he overplayed; but tonight Willis was almost remarkably good, playing blues harp like a harder-dying Sonny Boy Williamson. The crowd obviously loves him. Warren tosses Butch a nod, there is a drum break, then the two guitars spin out the licks, Willis wailing over the top. Gregg sings the hell out of the close, then Warren launches immediately into the snaky riff of “Smokestack Lightening.” Willis is immediately on it, into Warren’s vocals. Then Haynes and Willis roll all around in the bluesy mud together; Willis shouldn’t be this good. Derek moves to the fore, plays faster, higher up, the band follows him, then a crunchy return to riff, Willis blowing, and Warren singing the final vocals. I liked it.
The horns come back out for ‘Southbound,” and they are glorious high camp. There are other horn sections that sit in with the Brothers, and everyone is good; but the Jukes are the only ones who also have “an act.” Here they work it for all it’s worth, blowing synchronized, syncopated brassy bursts. La Bamba takes a solo over the other horns, then some speed demon guitars and sax locomotive. The horn players are swaying together to the beat like an old time horn section from the movies; if they are southbound, it is to south Jersey. The song ends the set with a happy exclamation point.
Boz Scaggs is onstage for the beginning of set 2, fronting the band for a sweet, self-contained four-song mini-set. Dylan’s “Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat” is an 8-bar blues, Warren is pure sweetness. Boz and Gregg trade verses, then the band lays on a rubbery “Rainy Day Women” groove and they are immediately deep down in the pocket. Then Boz quickly counts in the jaunty “Sick and Tired.” The horns are back, and it is instant soul revue, and right in Boz’s strike zone. Then “Aint No Love in the Heart of the City,” a minor blues with a serious “Thrill is Gone” vibe. Boz, Gregg and Warren trade off the vocals.
Then, finally, the blues juice spills over into “Loan Me a Dime.” Derek, of course, announces himself immediately. The next 13 minutes flow by in a state outside of time; it is 1969, when Boz’s version of this track with Duane came out; it is summer 2000, when the Brothers played this almost nightly. Of course the horns are still out, punching those charts for the part that on record is the extended fade. Derek pierces your heart, deft, fierce… the horns blow. Please, you think, don’t end. Then Derek steers the band beautifully down and around, slow again, to the verse. It is a little slice of heaven. The place erupts in a spontaneous ovation; Warren and the horn players are all applauding vigorously as Boz exits the stage.
Inevitably when the Jukes are in the house, you know you’re going to get “The Same Thing.” This take is full of fury. Oteil busts out in his mid-section slot after the first run-through of the song, then some Oteil/Derek/Jukes fury. Then Derek meets Warren in front of the stage for some guitar fury… the horns play the riff, brightly, full of color, to a shimmering end.
“Wasted Words” follows, Warren offering a nice extended slide attack on the outro, then a nice hand-off to Derek, who questions, probes over an insistent rhythm. Then, imperceptibly, they have moved into “what song was this again?” territory, and Derek tears through what is essentially now an entirely different song. Finally he nods to Warren, who pulls the jam back to the “Wasted Words” stopping place and close. Highlight.
Several times during “No One Left to Run With” Warren looks up at Allen Woody’s image on screen. There is an extended, monochrome jam, then the Bo Diddley riff, and they decay into spaciness and color. Warren provides an extended, valiant attack, with Duane literally looming overhead (courtesy the slide show.) Finally he chords the riff to call the band back; this takes a while because they don’t wanna come. Then finally the Bo Diddley beat and out.
The “Whipping Post” encore is dark and colorful and full. About a third of the way in, Derek, Warren and Oteil are hosing out colorful purple washes of tone; they all run together and ring. The music falls apart, then moves through different places until it has circled perfectly back to the pre-vocal slam. It is a cool, watery version, now go enjoy the rest of your Friday night.