The first set is solid and crowd-pleasing, if unspectacular, owing to a generally low degree of difficulty; less jamming, more of the “just so songs. The band lays down the overture to “Les Brers” before rolling over into “Don’t Want You No More,” a crunchy Warren rhythm under a fresh Derek lead. Then a smashing, declarative “Not My Cross to Bear” (that’s what it says in my notes.) Lots of smiles on stage during “Statesboro Blues,” it’s nice to see and augers well for the rest of the run…
Both guitarists offer nice, pleasing solos in “Aint Wastin’ Time No More,” Derek coming, Warren going. Then, in what I like to think of as Warren’s Howlin’ Wolf slot, a nice’n’greasy version of “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.” Derek squeezes out snaky slide lines as the band starts slowly, slowly, but very soon the train leaves the station and careens down the tracks, Derek making repeated, furious runs up the neck, until the inevitable stop-on-a-dime backflip back into the riff, then Derek with some nice train lines over the all-the-time-in-the-world outro.
Derek offers some nice tone on “Midnight Rider.” Then “Blind Willie McTell,” the relatively obscure Dylan tune that is, to my ears, fast becoming a highlight of the active repertoire. Gregg and Warren both sing the HELL out of it as they swap verses. On “Leave My Blues at Home” the guitar players do the two-man chugga chugga, Derek chording, Warren wailing. Then a low Oteil rumble heralds the back end of the Les Brers sandwich, the piece proper; Warren smolders over cool Derek rhythm.
Post-break, Derek noodles gently with “Little Martha as the band settles, then they open with “Rain,” the Beatles song that Gregg did solo a la Ray Charles. The string section of the recording replaced by slide guitars, it is gooey ear candy. Derek plays beautiful, empathetic slide lines off of Gregg;’s gritty and soulful vocals. Derek caps the tune wih a beauiful, melodic, sunshiny solo; “Rain” is a highlight.
“Trouble No More” follows. Gregory has taken some heat of late, but at this juncture it is worth noting, damn if he isn’t having a hot ***** show.You can tell bythe way his happy feet are beating time that he’s all in tonight. Warren offers up a new song, “Dusk Till Dawn” (I’m guessing). It’s one of his :songwriter songs,” brooding and contemplative, with a nice melody for solos; the piece moves from the song part to a sprightly instrumental part sort of like “Desdemona,” Warren taking th first solo, Derek the second, over a “House of the Rising Sun” sort of vibe. I think this one is gonna grow on us.
“No One Left to Run With” features a nice, majestic run by Warren; as he begins, he’s pulled inexorably over by Oteil’s gravity, and the two of them lock in. Finally he tears himself away from the Oteil orbit, turns to face Derek for the harmony licks that lead back to the song, the drums percolating underneath. On a joyous “Key to the Highway” there is some serious sway in the house.
“Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’,” then a psychedelic attack on Hendrix’s “1983,” Oteil taking a spoken interlude. It’s an aggressive attack, then time stops, the music falls apart, away; Warren spews steel bubbles of tone… then from the molten pit emerges a cool breeze of “Mountain Jam.” Sweet, chiming two-guitar tone, into a wild, frenetic, wah-wah-infused march, into a wild psychedelic breakdown… Warren leads the band down… down… and back into “1983.” Then, bam, back into “Mountain Jam,” the post-drums section, meaning tonight, no drum solo… and on to the close. The 1983/Jam suite contains some of the most exciting playing of the night.
A jaunty “One Way Out” that surprises no one is the encore, and night one is in the books. SOlid start, and an inventive second set full of treats.