Don’t Want You No More > Not My Cross to Bear > Statesboro Blues; Rain; Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home; Revival; Come On Into My Kitchen (Cody & Luther Dickenson); One Way Out (Cody & Luther Dickenson, Jay Collins); Hot ‘Lanta > All Along the Watchtower > Hot ‘Lanta (Jay Collins).
Melissa; Low Down Dirty Mean; Blue Sky; Dreams; 1983 > Mountain Jam (Saunders Semon trombone) > 1983 > Mountain Jam. encore: Whipping Post
Generally, I thought the first set was missing that certain something; I know others thought it was tight, but I found it mostly lacking that transcendence I’m looking for. Maybe it was just a question of song selection. But not to worry. The second set was transcendent from the word go, and the net was a great show and a super-fun night.
“Don’t Want You No More” is always one of my favorite openers; Gregg snarls on the organ, Derek stings, then Warren tumbles into “Not My Cross to Bear.” Warren squeals on “Statesboro Blues,” Gregg vamps it up– the three shows so far I’ve seen, Gregg has been more adventurous instrumentally than I’ve seen him in ages– and Derek wanders over to see what all the hubbub is, peering over the plexiglass divider by the keyboard rig like he’s inspecting the salad bar. Then Derek wails it out. Warren joins Gregg for the chorus vocals on “Rain,” after which Derek makes it rain over descending Warren lines.
There’s a brief front line huddle, then a collective chugga chugga into another rainy song, “Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” (“Laying around home alone on a rainy night like this…”) Then “Revival;” Derek and Warren square off, ratchet up the heat; Derek plays bluesy slide runs at the top of the neck, then cool, sparse jazzy runs at the bottom, leading into a conversation with Warren. Then once more into the frenetic, and back out of the instrumental midsection into “People can you feel it.” A musical highlight.
Gregg takes the band into “Come On In My Kitchen”– the rain theme continuing (“well it’s gonna be raining, outside…”)– while Butch and others are waving someone on from stage left; finally, after the song has begun, Luther Dickenson ambles out, straps on an ax over by Oteil, then brother Cody joins on washboard by Gregg. Gregg chugs along on keys as Warren peels off slide lines, then Luther follows with some slide dirt of his own. Cody by the way is one hell of a washboard player… Sax man Jay Collins joins for a “One Way Out” that is reminiscent of the all-hands-on-deck encore hot potato versions of “Southbound,” then the Dickenson brothers leave the stage, Collins stays on, and the band assays “Hot ‘Lanta.” Now, having seen them do this three times last spring with a horn on stage, I know that they’re going to bring the song to a close, and then emerge into “Watchtower.” On which, Collins blows a dark, hard, hot solo, then Warren sings cool purple vocals. Derek rides the waves; then the waves crash hard against the shore, into more cool cool vocals. Then back out the rabbit hole into “Hot ‘Lanta;” Butch leads a brief drum solo interlude hard into set close. “Watchtower,” inevitably, is another highlight.
In my notebook it says, “solid workmanlike set; not much transcendence.” I needn’t have fretted. Turns out they were saving it up.
The second set opens with “Melissa,” so Greg on acoustic, no Derek. Warren just keeps on going, round and round and round on the exit solo. Sublime. “Low Down Dirty Mean” is the big ass bumpa dumpa. Then “Blue Sky” takes everything up a notch, transcendence-wise, and we pretty much stay there the rest of the night. Derek takes a fat-noted solo, then falls finally into the “Blue Sky” sunshine. Then the transition harmony licks, which are just glorious. Warren fills the space with tone, then goes crunchy. The challenge for the guitarists on this song now is, how long can they stay away from the sticky, gooey, familiar sunny licks; the longer they do so, the greater the tension developed, so that when they do finally succumb to the sunshiny goo, it’s just that much more delightful. Warren at last goes to the happy gooey place, makes the sun shine, then goes into the transition licks once through himself. Then Derek joins, the place erupts as they come in for a landing back to Warren singing the final verse. If you’re not smiling now, you’re just not paying attention. Exquisite.
I guess now they figure, hell, were already in this place, so let’s stay here, and so they count off into “Dreams.” Derek embarks on a journey to the center of my mind. Warren puts out skull-tickling vibrations… Derek rips long, furious lines, pulling you out of the mist and into the now; he bends hard to his right as he plays, for maximum body English, driving hard back to the concluding vocal section.
Then the set-closing suite that combines the Hendrix tune “1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” and “Mountain Jam.” It’s the second time they’ve busted this out now. The first run through “1983” is psychedelic derring do; at the end the music stills, Derek and Warren pose tentative questions to each other on guitar, then Butch marches into the beat that heralds “Mountain Jam,” pulling it out of the foggy ether as Derek fights back with “Little Martha” before giving in, and it’s the “Jam.” The guitars tease “Birdland.” Then Saunders Semon from Tedeschi Trucks comes out on trombone and takes the band for a ride; Derek, Warren and Oteil are riveted to him. Gregg vamps over a bed of drums and little else, then the guitars lay on some more “Birdland” licks (“Oh for heaven sake, just play it,” I think to myself, smiling). Oteil is glue– or, I guess, more aptly, rubber cement– anchoring the ruckus while upping the ante. Semon is off, Warren pulls it all back, then offers some wah-wah questions, the answers to which are a return into the close of “1983.” Then back to the flip side of “Mountain Jam,” a massive dash to the finish. Great, great set.
Then a “Whipping Post” encore, which leaves me wondering what they’ve saved for tomorrow night (which, as I write this, is actually tonight, but since I write my reviews in the present tense…) It is pure heat and fury. You leave very satisfied, spent and sated, yet hungry for what tomorrow night may bring.