Can’t Lose What You Never Had
No One To Run With
Good Clean Fun
Old Before My Time
Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
Leave My Blues At Home
One Way Out (Leroy Parnell)
Mountain Jam > drums >
Walk On Gilded Splinters
Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More
The Same Thing (with Danny Louis)
Don’t Think Twice (with Susan T.)
High Cost of Low Living >
Mountain Jam (conclusion)
I’ve Got Dreams to Remember (DBB horns)
Southbound (with horns, Danny L. and Susan T.)
We have reached the point now where criticism, per se, is just wholly subjective. “Don’t worry, we’ll get better,” Warren joked when I complained the opening night was too good.
The show begins a little on the late side, at 8:30, with Bert acknowledging the 35th anniversary in his introduction. “Can’t Lose What You Never Had,” a fine first set closer earlier in the run, is also a fine set opener. Derek’s cutting licks ride atop Warren’s insistent rhythm playing, lightly under the verse, then to the fore between the singing. Then Warren’s concise solo brings the song to a high octane finish.
Then “No One to Run With,” a solid 1-2 opening that clearly pleases the crowd. Warren tosses off the song’s Bo Diddley chords as Derek plays against them. On “Statesboro Blues,” Derek’s solo late in the song is especially transcendent.
“Rocking Horse” is up next. Warren begins his solo section with a feedback-drenched note. Playing off of Oteil, he moves from chords to bleeding, blistering notes. For his solo, Derek uses some jazzy chording to establish a space, then when he’s satisfied he plays a blues-based lead that he winds down, then he’s peeling off slightly dissonant lines as he builds and builds again. Oteil goes deeper, dropping the bottom down a flight of stairs on Derek, who’s fingers are now a blur as he flies across the fretboard, filling the house with line after line. Then Derek, Warren and Oteil all fall into harmonic playing, and the band slams back into the song.
Tonight “Rocking Horse” gives way to “Good Clean Fun,” one of the better songs it is paired with; the band seems to like to launch right into something out of the last stinging off-kilter note of the song. “Good Clean Fun” is propelled by Warren’s fine rhythm playing. Derek takes a solo, with Warren adding guitar harmony to it; Gregg solos on the organ over the outro, then Derek joins in, then Warren, chording, pushing the jam on. It is pure nasty groove.
This band puts guitars– and solos and lead playing– so much to the fore that sometimes the classic rhythm playing can get overlooked. Warren is one of the finest rhythm players doing this kind of music, and on many songs– this one, “No One to Run With”– it is his rhythm guitar that pushes the band, lays down the groove that defines the song and gives the others the melodic riffing to lock onto.
On “Old Before My Time,” Warren’s solo tells the song’s story with heartfelt melodic resonance; Derek offers up a tasty lick before the vocal close. This song is almost a folk song.
“Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” is next, a vehicle for the kind of extended improvisational dynamic work that has peppered this run and become one of the most exciting places in the show. Derek and Oteil lay the bottom down as Warren sings, then Warren takes that solo of his, playing over Oteil, totally nailing the blues, straining against the song’s lockstep rhythmic groove. Then back into the vocals, and Warren stops playing as Derek lays tasty guitar lines over Warren’s “I go home witchoo.” Derek hits a long, sustained note, then moves into fat, snaky slide lines. Warren plays a counter-melody to Derek, pushing the song into a faster time signature with his chording, and the band falls in behind him. Now Derek is playing an entirely new solo, glass flying against string. Finally Warren steps forward, the signal for the band to snap back into the song’s core riff, a nifty feat of ensemble derring do. Warren sings the final verse, Derek playing soft glassy lines over his vocal fade. For a moment it is just Derek, quiet as a mouse, licks that hint at the entire song; then Derek, Warren and Oteil wrap around the riff that brings the song to an end. Highlight.
“Leave My Blues at Home” features a guitar duel of short lines passed quickly back and forth on the outro. Then Warren brings up Leroy Parnell, who immediately lays down some pure Allmans slide. All three guitar players swap slide lines as if of a single mind; Derek grins at Parnell, who is clearly having a blast. There is a brief three-man blues interlude, then Derek takes the final, extended pre-song solo before the band rolls into “One Way Out.” It is a slide orgy; holy geez, now there are THREE of them! It is almost too much of a good thing. Almost. Finally the song brings the set to a high-energy end.
Butch and Derek do their thing as the second set begins, Butch’s Big Beat heralding the arrival of Mountain Jam. Derek dances around the beat, states the song’s theme in his riffage, then backs away from it, back into the dance. Warren joins the riff fest, and then the two of them state the song’s theme. Derek takes a solo over Gregg and the drums, with the occasional dab of Oteil; one of the band’s dynamic tricks is that as a 7-piece, they can choose at any time to be a trio, quartet, etc. Warren begins playing, joining Derek on the solo. Gregg is up next, laying down some nice organ work with Oteil flying underneath. Warren takes a solo that he builds to just short of frenetic, and then he just stays there, letting the tension mount. Derek joins, and both guitarists play big hanging notes that guide the music down to the drum solo section.
In the middle of the drum solo there is a distinct shift in the beat, as the rest of the band is returning to the stage, and they have just segued into “Walk On Gilded Splinters,” which opens with drums. Somehow, though, you are pretty sure you have not heard the last of “Mountain Jam.”
Derek’s solo finds the place where gumbo and blues slide meet. You can see Warren visibly enjoying Derek’s playing. Bearing witness to the evolution of this song since opening night– watching this band take command of a new song– is truly a thing to behold.
On “Aint Wastin’ Time No More,” Derek fills your head with an oddly deep, dark wistfulness that is, if you think about it, the essence of the blues. Indeed he comes in blue, but he finishes radiating light. Danny Louis joins the band for “The Same Thing;” his presence is probably responsible for the song staying a little closer to earth tonight, but it is no less powerful. Warren solos out of his fierce vocals; the band is percolating on schedule, right up into the Oteil bass solo that usually flips the song into a funk space. Oteil plays an extended solo over the drum section, then the band slams back into the song. Warren looks at Louis, who plays some barrelhouse piano on his solo. Derek sidles over and urges him on; the song stays in the blues pocket but nonetheless smokes.
Ms. Susan Tedeschi Trucks saunters onstage to lead the band through “Don’t Think Twice.” The band is still as Derek plays the opening salvo of the song, plays to his wife, with just one drummer providing sparse percussion in the background to augment Susan’s light strumming. Susan steps to the mic and again, the crowd is hers. Derek’s solo is a thing of beauty, and no one is digging it more than Susan. Susan’s powerful bluesy singing brings the song around– again, this is for all intents and purposes a duet– and as she wraps up the vocals, Derek winks at her. Then he gets a kiss on the cheek and she is gone. For me, this song is always a highlight. If you aren’t happy now, you’ve never been in love.
On “High Cost of Low Living,” Derek’s fat tone accentuates Gregg’s emotive singing between the verse lines. Derek plays slide and Warren chords in unison, between and underneath Gregg’s vocals. Then Derek is squeezing out glassy, goopy lines. Warren takes a solo in a call-and-response with Derek. There are no bird calls, but the playing is definitely avian. Warren is chording at the top of the neck, and he, Derek and Oteil bring the song sweetly home. This interlude– the second half of “High Cost,” the part after the vocals are done– is a musical highlight.
The band doesn’t quite stop playing, though. Out of “High Cost” they are back into “Mountain Jam,” and now, indeed, there are bird calls. Finally the guitars play the stately march part of the second half of the song, Derek takes a solo that has him working from high to low end of the fretboard. He is ringing the bell, meandering further and further away from the core riff; Warren is too. Finally they fall into step, again Derek’s slide and Warren’s chords, with Warren periodically tossing in licks instead. The music is huge, resonant. Derek slows; Warren adds accents as the two of them guide the music to a graceful touchdown on a hanging Warren note. Then Derek goes back into the main theme of the song, Butch is pounding away, and band is driving it home.
For the encore, Rob Somerville and B Smith from Deep Banana Blackout join for Warren’s deeply soulful reading of “Dreams to Remember,” the Otis Redding song. The horns are spot on and lend a nice authentic Staxx/Volt tinge to the proceedings. At song’s end Derek plays wispy lines that are just barely there, as Warren retreats from the mic; Derek continues his elusive lines over the horns on a soft, exquisite fade. Then everyone (but Parnell) is on for the inevitable stomp, “Southbound.” There is a great, driving Derek/Warren rhythm, Danny Louis adds more roadhouse piano over the chorus. The horns, then Susan, get a solo spot; Derek beams as Susan plays. Gregg takes off, then joined by Louis; then an all out romp, then horns, and finally a rip-roaring Warren solo brings the night to a close.
On the one hand, I maybe liked the night before better. On the other, I prefer two fives to a ten.