By: Josh Chasin
Crowd is thrilled by mojo and majesty, deep grooves, the real blues; the band is almost there…
Butch starts the gentle, insistent timpani even as the rest of the band is still tuning and settling in; Derek begins his variations on the theme, and we’re off into “Mountain Jam.” The twin guitar licks, then Derek steps to the fore, playing glassy, cascading watery lines on the first solo. Derek exits by playing chords; then Gregg takes his first jaunt of the night. Behind Gregg, the drummers change up the rhythm, and the band realigns around the new groove. Warren is playing nice rhythm behind Gregg; this leads into his first extended run of the night. The band is playing around with time, Oteil runs the voodoo down. Finally Warren signals through his playing to cool things down, and the music finds its way to a resting spot, from which the straight-on ringing blues emerges, a sublime segue.
It is “Highway 61,” and even before the vocals come around you can tell it’s going to be good. Gregg sings it like he was born to the song, the whole band swings. Oteil turns to face Derek, beams at him during his solo. Talk about a song that is right in the band’s strike zone…
The guitarists play some divine harmony guitar lines on “Aint Wastin’ Time No More.” Derek hangs a shrill, trilling note out of the first verse, then takes the first slide solo. Warren follows on slide. With Derek over by Oteil, the little accents he used to toss in between Gregg’s vocal lines are mostly gone.
Back into the Howlin’ Wolf catalog for the second night in a row, for “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.” Derek provides nice rich punctuation to Warren’s vocal over the riff. Warren takes a gritty solo over the insistent riff and tears it up, as Derek and Oteil square off, face each other. Warren pulls out all the stops, totally smoldering; Derek and Oteil share a laugh at the moment; the crowd acknowledges with applause. Derek presses out big notes, then his playing becomes more frenetic; now Oteil has his back to the audience, facing Butch. Derek and the band hit a crescendo, then they take the music back down, and Warren holds them in place while Derek changes to the Les Paul. Warren vamps on the vocal outro (I go home…”), moving away from the mic as he sings; Derek echoes his pleas with a deft touch.
The instrumental outro is brief, and the music flips seamlessly over to the intro section of “You Don’t Love Me.” Warren anchors the rhythm with Oteil and the drummers, Derek freewheels lead lines on top of the right-in-the-pocket groove. The guitarists trade licks, Gregg lays down a bed of organ, and they flip over into the song proper. Gregg’s vocals are commanding and assured. At one point Derek points to Warren as the verse comes around to an end, and Warren takes off. On “Don’t Keep me Wondering,” Derek is a wall of sound, riding the band’s wave. It seems like all night, Derek isn’t so much playing notes as sounds. He plays a quick, busy solo during “Maydell” (Warren singing), as the band rocks and shimmies.
“Soulshine” is a glorious capper to the set. Derek plays an artful run out of Warren’s vocal. The climax, the glorious closing play-out, with Derek and Warren alternating insanely happy leads, is just spot-on sunshiny perfection. It is the perfect way to end the set…
…only, the set isn’t over. Susan Tedeschi comes out center stage, and the band kicks into “Anyday,” the Clapton song. Oteil is singing the lead vocal, with Susan providing harmonies on the verse, Warren and Marc joining on the chorus. The vocals are outstanding; Oteil is totally nailing the song, and Susan is bringing soul and grit even as she provides the feminine. Susan offers a vocal response to Oteil’s singing; she’s feeling it, they all are, and the whole thing is just insanely great. Finally Warren takes a solo, dangerous, nasty; you were sure it would be Derek, but no, Warren just lays it bare, full, forceful, inevitable, he’s coming at you in waves, pure heavy hard stuff. It isn’t music; it is food. After the final verse, Derek takes flight, his playing brilliant, sunny, and somehow exactly the opposite of Warren’s, the perfect counterpoint. The song is HUGE. Derek’s solo provides a culmination, as it grabs you in your happy place and shakes you to the bone. Then they put the song gently to bed. NOW its intermission. You’re just a little bit awed.
“If ‘Anyday’ was a girl, I think to myself, “I’d marry her.”
Susan is back, with guitar, to open the second set. The band lays into the riff to “Feel So Bad,” and they’ve picked up about where they’ve left off. Susan handles the vocals for the first couple of verses, then takes the first solo, starting tasty and ending nasty. Then Gregg, who lets a few bars cycle by before beginning, plays a nice, understated solo, then he sings the next verse. Warren solos, then Susan sings the last verse, singing to Derek; he leans in toward her, then plays, his slide and Susan’s throaty vocals a call and response. Derek shreds while Warren is locked in on the rhythm; there is an extended play-out over the one chord. Warren and Derek trade off licks, then Susan joins the fray, as Oteil and the drummers are riding on a deep groove. There is a thrilling three-guitar orgy; around and around, faster and faster, until finally Susan bends back, back like it’s the limbo; she grimaces, her guitar is facing almost straight up, she’s conjuring the mojo, and suddenly it is rising like steam up from her ax plain as day, and she brings the house to a joyful climax. Derek and Warren seem momentarily taken aback; then it’s on into more three guitar madness, to the close.
Susan greets the crowd and introduces Jr. Wells’ “Little By Little.” Pure Chicago blues; Warren stings during her vocal; Susan takes the first solo, then Warren plays some boogie shuffle. Then the band hits stop-time and Susan sings over it. Derek lays down some skank, and they drive the song home.
Gregg offers strong, feeling vocals on “Desdemona,” then plays a “My Favorite Things”-tinged solo which melts into backing as Derek steps up and fills the room with tone poems (which is to say, poems made out of tone.) Then he wrestles the dragon, moving high up the neck. He tosses a nod to signal that he’s done, then his solo fades away into space. Warren emerges from space, and his solo resonates with Oteil’s runs, drenching us in undertones. Then Warren deftly makes his way back to the song., wave after wave of shimmering minor key bliss.
They take “Hoochie Coochie Man” from a standing start (no intro guitar duel) and play it by the book but spot-on; it is BIG; they hit that place where the mix, the room, and the playing all converge and the music is just everywhere. “The night is still young,” Gregg teases, before they bite the head off of “Leave My Blues at Home.” Again, it is all about the riff. The song gives way quickly to a majestic drum solo; Marc sits in the center, pounding on a kit, taking the lead tonight as he, Butch and Jaimoe perform the 3-man weave. At one point in the drum spot they bring a movement to a close, put it to rest with cymbals… and then another groove emerges. They’ve actually done a segue in the middle of Jabuma.
There is a full stop at the end of the drum section, and Oteil comes on for a funky 4-string thang. Soon, the rest of the band has returned, and Derek, Warren and Oteil are all chiming. “They’re going back,” I hear myself say out loud… and finally Derek heralds a return to “Mountain Jam,” hitting a single high hard slide note that leads into the march section. Derek is all over, playing gorgeous, flowing lines. Warren steps in with quick jabs. Finally the two guitarists lock step and restate the song’s theme, and we are back were it all began.
“They’re gonna let us play one more,” says Gregg, and Oteil rumbles into “Whipping Post.” Warren buzz saws the opening riff, Gregg’s vocals are fresh. Out of the first verse, Derek lays out a sheet of dissonance, then wields the tone on his solo. He uses the volume knob to squeeze out a sequence of chords, then he’s playing molten glass, and another ovation. Back into the vocals, then Warren plays a dreamy solo with tiny notes, there and not there, but soon he’s racing, the band with him, he climbs, digs it out, his solo culminates with chording high up the neck, and the chords lead right back into the verse. It is a stunning display. Gregg’s fierce vocals drive the song home.
Tonight, they soared some.
Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More
Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
You Don’t Love Me
Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’
Feel So Bad**
Little By Little**
Hoochie Coochie Man
Leave My Blues At Home>Drums>Bass>
* Susan Tedeschi, backing vox
**Susan, vox, guitar