Friday night’s show was the kind of show that keeps me coming back over and over again; it essentially rendered the first two nights mere prelude. I don’t know what makes for a magic night—Mars is in Venus, Warren’s biorhythms, Gregg had a healthy breakfast, whatever. But this night the juju was flowing…
It begins right away. Gregg’s solo on “Hot ‘Lanta” is electric. Derek is fast and sprightly, Warren wrings anguish out of the guitar neck. “No One Left to Run With” is dance pop, Allmans style, climbing, chiming… it is the feel good movie of the summer. Then “Leave My Blues at Home” is deep dark old school mojo, Gregg’s vocals are commanding, and there’s a nice, long Butch-fueled drum break. Then Warren and Derek do that twin fire hose of molten lava thing they do.
“Worried Down With the Blues” features some deep down gutbucket blues form each guitar player, and lots of it; the crowd shows their appreciation with an ovation. On “Soulshine,” Derek works to avoid the obvious on his solo, then Warren lays out rich creamy tone; finally both guitarists succumb to the sunshine, milking it again and again on an extended outro.
Next up is another big run through “True Gravity,” a big, sleek version. Off the opening post-theme crescendo, Derek takes off and goes all ethereal, then a divine twin guitar attack climaxes in a return to theme, and then a big, confident finish.
When “Dreams” makes it’s way into the first set, you can generally count on a special night. Derek comes in dreamy, and all business… he bends time into a pretzel, then fills my head with sweet waves of tone, and I drift away with him… Now comes Warren, fingers first, then slide, bringing the band back into the succession of stellar moments at the back end of the song. The music washes over you in warm waves, like a gift… “Black Hearted Woman” is the perfect capper to the set. They quickly get the song part out of the way so that the action may commence. Derek is a one-man frenzy during the “Other One” jam section, then the others join in, and the band slams into the transition riff back, the drummers scattering shards of rhythm, paving the way for a big, manic, frantic sprint to close. And… scene,
If the second set had turned out to be anti-climactic, I would not have complained. It is not anti-climactic.
A jaunty “Done Somebody Wrong” kicks off the second set. On “Come and Go Blues,” Derek is lovely and wispy up front, Warren is round and watery on the back end. Out of “Come and Go,” Oteil plays around with the riff that presages “Rocking Horse,” tipping his hand to the cognoscenti. When the band is ready he vamps all over that riff, Derek joins the vamp, then Warren plays a little “Salt Peanuts,” before they finally tumble headlong into the song. Out of the verse, Warren runs off and does his thing, right into some Oteil shimmer that leads into the part of the jam I’ve come to call “Derek’s Tune.” Derek swoops and soars, then Warren joins him and they both rain down the happy juice till you’re soaked. Then Derek solos back into the riff that heralds the final verse. Highlight.
“Trouble No More” emerges right out of “Horse.” Warren is molten, sending warm energy straight up your spine. And from here, the show really steps into the stratosphere. “Midnight Rider” is up next, a song that usually just sounds the same every night; the house erupts, and tonight it is an especially big, ringing take (perhaps fueled by the audience response?) Derek damn near blasts right out of the song. Then “Blue Sky” keeps people happy. Derek goes right at it in his solo; the annoying guy next to me comments, “That’s as good as it gets, right there.” It’s hard to quarrel. The guitars sing out the transition riff, then Warren steps up. Derek hasn’t left him much, having mined the “Blue Sky” mother lode. Warren swings the first time through, then he goes right to the meat, finds the button, and just keeps pushing it, again and again. Stellar. We need a minute to whoop.
“You Don’t Love Me” seems a curve ball of a choice up next, but it comes on as round after round of rollicking good fun. The song winds down with an implied question; it seems like Derek and Warren have something up their sleeves. Derek plays sweet, tiny lines, and the band turns over into that shuffle jam. Warren’s rhythm drives, Derek stings. Derek goes off into a sideways melody, pulls the band through the looking glass and out the other side back into the shuffle jam… more divine, tiny lines from Derek, against some great Warren rhythm… the guitars do a call and response, and the song seems about to end, but no, they go around again, Warren lays out a “Schoolgirl” vibe, then off they go on a new tangent, twin licks, they refuse to let go of the song. There’s a little chaos, decay, and a hard, tortured Warren finish… and the clouds part as Derek tosses out the melody line, and Warren the sweet R’n’B chording, of “Soul Serenade.” It’s heaven, and we’ve made it. The slow, bluesy phrases are a reward they’ve earned, and we all bask in reflected glory. Then the music gets heavier, and we’re out.
There could be no question what will come next, as of course the band comes back and rumbles into “Whipping Post.” Derek vibrates at the exact Beacon frequency, Gregg snarls out fierce vocals; Warren is in the exact center of my head ringing out a “My Favorite Things” tease. Sheets of sound power the music forward. Then the music slows, stills, and a lush, beautiful ringing becomes “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” the third night in a row the guitarists find a place for this in the set, but tonight Derek moseys over to Gregg, who sings it. “Circle” becomes a Gregg/Derek duet; Derek almost can’t contain himself, overflowing out of the gaps between the vocal lines. Then back into “Whipping Post” as the engine room drives it home.
A long night, you’re drained but sated with the magic, redeemed by the blues, saved by rock’n’roll.