By David Lindquist, Staff Writer
Warren Haynes deserves ironman status for his efforts Saturday at Verizon Wireless Music Center, where he spent six hours in the spotlight. He spread his guitar work and singing across three acts — headliner Phil Lesh & Friends, middle act Allman Brothers Band and opener Gov’t Mule.
Gov’t. Mule, the hardest-rocking outfit on the jam/improv spectrum, is the band Haynes leads. A muscular tone defined “Bad Little Doggie” and “Thorazine Shuffle,” songs in which Haynes located grooves and drained their entire goodness.
While he’s not a revolutionary player, Haynes is a master of piercing riffs and breakneck velocity. This utility explains his second tour of duty with the Allmans.
Even as he delivered solo after solo in this stretch, Haynes actually served as complementary foil to Gen Y genius Derek Trucks.
Trucks, nephew of longtime Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, has perfected a slide guitar technique in which notes seem to have no beginning or end. They’re just effortlessly there, at Trucks’ discretion to sustain or pause.
If Haynes can be classified as a gunslinger, “rocket scientist” is the title that fits Trucks.
Haynes does seem to coax an aggressive streak in Trucks, who owned the fiery licks of “Statesboro Blues.” In contrast, Haynes revealed a tender side when singing a hardcore soul rendition of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.”
Primary vocalist Gregg Allman didn’t have a particularly strong showing, as many songs appeared to be chores in search of the next guitar solo.
An assortment of new material sparked life in Allman, with stately ballad “Desdemona” being the best of the bunch. This tune opened into a lounge-esque percussion break, which provided prime real estate for consecutive runs from Trucks and Haynes.
Where Haynes was competent and by the book, Trucks dazzled with liquid and otherworldly sounds.
Still, Haynes asserted himself as a decisive force through the Gov’t. Mule and Allman sets. It was disappointing to see him regress to aimless noodler with Phil Lesh & Friends.
Lesh, the Grateful Dead’s iconic bass player, is now responsible for two of the worst headlining performances in the past five seasons of Verizon/Deer Creek history.
Even with his solo project’s dismal showing in 2000, a repeat failure seemed unlikely. For starters, Haynes wasn’t a member of that lineup. Even better, Lesh released an album of new material this spring.
Unfortunately, the show again had all the sophistication of five pals rehearsing in a basement after not playing music together for 20 years.
As a vocalist, Lesh offers no inflection or character. He merely shouts out lyrics from Dead chestnuts that, every 20 minutes or so, provide relief from cul-de-sac jams.
Keyboard player Rob Barraco sang Lesh & Friends original “Again and Again,” which could have been a watered-down ’80s outtake from Kansas or Starship.
Thank goodness for hero of the day Haynes, who poured himself into a monumental version of “Sugaree.”
The attendance figure for the triple-bill was 12,000. Only masochists subjected themselves to the entire Lesh performance.