I don’t know what makes some shows just garden variety kickass good, and others magical. Biorhythms? Because Warren had Mexican food? And too, the best I can know is how I experienced the show; not how it actually was according to some objective universal standard. So it might not even be them; it might be me.
For me at least, this was one of the magical ones. I didn’t start that way– it actually began slow. Things started to elevate seriously when Steve Earle arrived; and the second set was push-you-back-in-your-seat epochal. Maybe it was because of where I was sitting (the loge, a sonic sweet spot), but the groove was in the house…
Trouble No More
Come and Go Blues
High Cost of Low Living
Worried Down With the Blues
End of the Line
Don’t Keep Me Wondering
Devil’s Right Hand (Steve Earle)
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Steve Earle)
Leave My Blues at Home
In Memory of Elizabeth Reed (including bass//drums)
e: That’s What Love Can Make You Do (Robert & Marcus Randolph)
One Way Out (Robert & Marcus Randolph)
“Come and Go Blues” is crispy, with Warren squeezing out some clear, ringing tone; “High Cost” blows out on a gentle Warren/Derek breeze. “Worried Down” is the deep, pitiful blues; it’s feeling like a Warren night, and this is an early highlight. Warren adds some fat, honking slide to “End of the Line,” closing out with some screechy, supercharged guitar ballet that has the crowd yodeling its appreciation. “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin'” has me drifting away on the intense white light, then someone goes even whiter-light that pulls me out of the jam, deposits me into… the jam.
Steve Earle comes on with acoustic guitar and leads the band through “Devil’s Right Hand,” straight-up country music. Derek schticks it up nicely. Then, “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.” And maybe it’s trite, but this is where the show shifted into overdrive. The intro is beautiful, with the singers laying on those mournful “woos;” then when Gregg sings the first verse, chills. He has every right to sing this song now, and sing it he does. Steve Earle takes the next verse, then Derek casually rips off the solo, his tone so fat it nearly busts out of his hands; that boy is selling past the close. Then Derek goes at the solo again, this time playing the silence, the spaces between the notes. Warren leads the vocalists back into the chorus, more of those sorrowful “woos.” Just beautiful.
Afterward, as”Jessica” seems perfect, inevitable to close the set. Out of the theme, Warren holds the fort with chorded rhythm, as Derek flits around like a bee in a rose garden.Derek layers in some “Mountain Jam” quotes, then Derek and Warren scatter staccato lines, and Oteil hints again at “Mountain Jam.”
When music is really, really good, it’s almost like food. This set got there, got to that place of nourishment for your poor weary soul.
The second set opens with “Leave My Blues at Home,” which sounds great up in the loge. THen Warren leads the band through a wah-wah heavy “Maydell,” which flips seamlessly over into “Manic Depression” as if these were just two halves of the same song; the Maydell/Manic combo is already on my iPod. We leave the groove right where it is for “Gambler’s Roll,” one of my favorite songs in the repertoire. A nice, elastic “Standback” follows, Derek playing Duane’s old gold top (which is getting passed around this run like my cousin Shirley in high school.) He moseys over to Gregg and the two play off each other. THe music subsides for some tasty Gregg organ vamping set against Derek slide riffing, all of which accelerates back into a hard driving assault to the close.
Next up is “Elizabeth Reed.” Ordinarily, I find the placement of the extended version of this song (with drum solo) to close the set as anti-climactic, because there isn’t enough song on the back end. Tonight though, no worries The song comes in like a Chinese dragon, all snaky and reptilian, with gongs and snorts of fire. Smooth, precise lines by Warren, and lots of Marc on the opening. The jamming is spacy, silky, leading into a pounding Oteil bass solo; then he joins the drum corp for a tasteful, wavy attack that goes on and on, washing over you, in a very good way… I drift in and out… all told, Liz Reed is a good thirty-five minutes.
Robert Randolph sets up his pedal steel over by Oteil, and brother Marcus sits in on drums for an encore double dose. “That’s What Love Can Make You Do” is basically a bluesy “Southbound,” with round robin flying solos; then “One Way Out” brings the night to a long, sweaty close.