First the setlist, courtesy the good folks over at Hittin’ the Note:
One Way Out (Bernie Williams, guitar)
High Cost of Low Living
River’s Gonna Rise (w/Williams, Ruthie Foster, vox)
Blind Willie McTell (Jukes Horns)
Standback (Jukes Horns)
Soulshine (Juke Horns)
The Same Thing (Juke Horns)
Katrina (Warren & Derek; w/Rocky Laurence, guitar)
Grinnin’ in Yo’ Face (Warren & Ruthie, a capella)
Death Came a Knockin’ (Warren & Derek; Ruthie guitar/vox; Susan Tedeschi, vox)
These Days (Warren & Gregg)
The Weight (Juke horns, Ruthie, Susan)
Les Brers in A Minor (Tony Trischla, banjo) > bass > drums > Les Brers
This was one of those shows that can only happen at the Beacon; mid-week, lots of guests, lots of combinations, and loose as a goose. Indeed Warren warned us with a sly grin, “The later in the run it gets, the looser we get.” But loose is good. (Also, tight is good; go figure.) Loose means…
…well, it means for example they come on for “One Way Out” with two guitarists and a centerfielder. No Bill Graham introduction tonight, they just sort of fall into “One Way Out,” brisk and fresh, with friend Bernie Williams guesting on guirar and acquitting himself nicely. “Midnight RIder” follows, Bernie off; then “High Cost of Low Living.” Out of the body of the song Warren plays nice, loping lines that arc upward, Derek lays on some mood on slide, then takes off on a solo, on and on, scratching at an insistent itch, more and more intense. Oteil beams, the band locks, into an “Aint Wastin’ TIme No More”-style peak blowing wistful kisses into the end…
Derek brings in the big chiming bangs of “Bag End,” and comes out of the gate all big and shimmery. Warren explores tentatively over the drummers, then Warren and Oteil square off for a conversation that turns into a throw down. Then Oteil’s spidery fingers lay a bed for Derek’s tone poem, and a taut close. The shimmer oozes over as Ruthie Foster comes onstage over on the left side, and Williams returns, for “River’s Gonna Rise.” Warren sings the vocals, but on the chorus Oteil and Ruthie respond with backing vocals (“the river’s gonna rise!”) all gospelly. There’s a serious front line vamping with a hard lean-in while Ruthie goes to town; it’s a small town, with a big church. All in all, quite a joyful racket. Derek tosses out judicious rings and lines as Ruthie takes it down low at the end. It’s an early highlight.
With the Juke Horns on, “Blind Willie McTell” is a New Orleans funeral dirge, the horns all weepy and pitiful. A trumpet solo, then Warren asks a sad question on guitar. He sings the hell out of his verse the spirit is clearly upon him; then Gregg sings a verse, more laconic, then Derek takes off. One of the best versions of this song I’ve heard, and a nice surprise for the horn segment.
“Standback” turns into one of those extended one-chord smolder-jams. The horns blow in time together, a great chart, and as Derek wails against them, sparks fly off his slide. Then he plays their riff, and everyone crashes to the close. “That was awesome,” my friend Henry says, as Oteil points to the Jukes.
I know some people turn their noses up at “Soulshine,” but if you want a trip to that happy place, and you’re game to take the ride, this one’s a short cut. The extended band camps out on the happy juice gland a good long time, to the consensus delight of the house, souls are shining all around; then, as if to avoid the risk of getting too corny, they slam right into “The Same Thing” before you have a chance to take a breath.The first solo out of the vocals is trombone; then Warren takes a spicy lead, then the vocals, then Oteil spools our some funky murky bottom. Everyone describes an Allman Brothers show as being either a “Derek show,” or a “Warren show,” but I’m starting to think this one might be an Oteil show. There’s not a lot of color tonight– but there’s shitloads of heat… A trumpet solo, then Warren and Derek offer rapid fire flames, slamming emphatically into the exclamation point of a close to song and set.
Guitarist Rocky Laurence is out, seated, suit and hat, looking not unlike Hubert Sumlin used to look when he sat in with the band. Laurence, Derek and Warren offer up “Katrina,” which is a front porch country blues. Then Warren and Ruthie are on alone, with guitars in lap, for “Grinnin’ in Your Face,” a capella, trading verses, pushing each other. Warren eggs her on: “Tell it, Ruth!” Susan Tedeschi joins the fun for “Death Came a Knockin’,” she and Ruthie making heat together singing. “These Days,” just Warren and Gregg, is lovely, the nicest Gregg moment of the night.
Gregg stops on the way back to his workstation to share a word with Derek; then they’re into “Blue Sky.” Gregg comes in late on the verse. Derek wails and rips, then hits the transition riff through a couple of times, then Warren joins him; then Warren is off, his solo is more fire than air (it’s usually an airy song). Gregg makes up for missing the first cue by coming in early on the last verse… but these are nits; it’s a crowd pleaser.
Ruthie, Susan and the horns come back on for “The Weight,” and it’s a full-on soul revue. Susan and Ruthie alternate verses, soul sisters. A sax honks, a trumpet blows, the music swirls, serious percolation… trombone, another trumpet, another sax, the full-on band slamming, banging… On the hard outro Warren sings “Take a load off Fannie” over and over.. highlight.
Tony Trischla joins the core band on banjo (yes, banjo) as the “Les Brers” overture comes over you… there’s a crazy, driving banjo solo, Gregg’s first real solo of the night, Then Derek, then Oteil, then Oteil does a funk rumble in time with some sprightly banjo. The rest of the players walk off, and the bass/banjo dance gives way to, again, a relatively short drum interlude. Derek and Warren walk back on before the drum solo ends, watching the action, then they create an airy mist as everyone comes back on and settles in. The band darts back to the song, Derek toys with the lick, Warren sprays frantic liquid fire, then they all fall back onto the theme., and out.
“Revival” is just the core band, a tight version, more song than runway; In the middle break Derek improvises with the “Mountain Jam” melody, before the band is quickly back into the refrain.
Solid show. As I say, less color and more heat, a lot of scratching at that R’n’B insistent one-chord itch, making unusually good use of the horn section. Loose and swinging. The final weekend awaits.