Tedeschi Trucks Band House of Blues July 12, 2013
At its best, live music can be a life-affirming, soul-nourishing, and joy-inducing experience. Those may sound like empty platitudes, the kind of catch-all catchphrases that might be printed on a plaque at the Hallmark store of spew from the mouth of Stuart Smalley.
But Friday night at the House of Blues, the Tedeschi Trucks Band delivered all three of those things and more in a sonic stew that mixed rock, blues, jazz, funk, R&B, and gospel, touching on material from their debut record Revelator, tracks from the upcoming Made Up Mind (due August 20) and choice covers that added something to the originals. And it offered the faithful and kind of spiritualism not found in many houses of worship.
The 11-piece ensemble led by Derek Trucks (lead guitar) and Susan Tedeschi (vocals/guitar) is, foremost, an actual ensemble and not just a backing band for the husband-and-wife duo.
Every player got a chance to shine on his instrument be it voice or drums, sax or trombone: Kofi Burbridge (keyboards/flute), Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson (drums), Make Mattison and Mark Rivers (backing vocals), the horn section of Kebbi Williams (sax), Maurice Brown (trumpet) and Saunders Sermons (trombone). Touring bassist Eric Krasno is subbing for the on-hiatus Oteil Burbridge.
TTB came storming out with fan favorite "Don't Let Me Slide" from Revelator, and indeed the audience responded to other tunes from that record like "Ball and Chain," an elegant "Midnight in Harlem" (with a great Williams solo) and -- later -- the positivity-infused "Bound for Glory."
And while there seemed to be less of Trucks' signature slide workouts than last year's Houston show, just his run from "Love Has Something Else to Say" shows why he is a real master of the style.
Judging by the songs the band played from the upcoming Made Up Mind, their sophomore effort promises to be a looser, funkier affair. The title track is a smokier mashup of TTB and the Famous Flames, with Tedeschi's trademark raw wailing blending with Rivers as co-vocalist.
"Part of Me," the instrumentally expansive "Don't Drift Away," and the Mattison-sung "Do I Look Worried?" also sound like they'll be record highlights. The new material clearly allowed Tedeschi to bring out more of her funny, sassy, and funky sides with big smiles throughout.
In fact, while Trucks remained his usual concentrating, inscrutable, and utterly silent self during the show (though I did see him smile once!). The admiration for both him as a guitar player and a man was clearly on Tedeschi's face as she watched him during soloing. It's a look that only a person who has seen the other person naked could emanate from; everyone should all be so lucky to have that sort of romantic partner.
Finally, two covers stood out. Though Elmore James' "The Sky is Crying" is both overcovered and dominated by the Stevie Ray Vaughan version, the TTB's take took things to another level as it built and built and built up to an explosion, and was a showcase for Trucks' slide. A raucous take on George Harrison's Beatle kiss-off "Wah Wah" was wonderfully shambolic as it chugged forward.
Overall, an amazing show, though it was probably more impactful as I saw it on the rail in front of the stage and not further back. But -- if Derek and Susan can continued to afford the per diem and hotel room costs for such a big ensemble -- it's one their fans hope will be around for a long time.
Singer/songwriter Rayland Baxter opened the show, sitting on a chair with just him and an electric guitar. And while his lilting songs about booze, Parisian women, and seeing Jesus in a dream were literate and affecting, by his own admission to the crowd it was not "Friday night music." Thus, audience talking was sometimes louder than his voice (which brought to mind a less reverby Jim James) and yodeling/whistling.
Personal Bias: Fan of Tedeschi and Trucks' solo material and even moreso their collaboration. Have pre-ordered Made Up Mind.
The Crowd: Mostly thirty- through fiftysomethings, at least three sporting Allman Brothers T-shirts (Derek Trucks' other gig is guitaring for them. His uncle is original ABB drummer Butch Trucks).
Overheard In the Crowd: "That guy plays fucking great slide guitar! He's sick!"
Random Notebook Dump: It may be time to get a smartphone. This, as I was writing down the set list from a paper by the soundboard, the guy holding it said "Just take a picture!"
Don't Let Me Slide Made Up Mind Rollin' and Tumblin' (Muddy Waters cover) Ball and Chain Do I Look Worried (Mattison lead vocals) I Know Midnight in Harlem Love Has Something More to Say The Sky is Crying (Elmore James cover) Part of Me Wah-Wah (George Harrison cover) Majoun The Storm
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Angel From Montgomery/Sugaree (Bonnie Raitt/Jerry Garcia covers) Don't Drift Away Bound for Glory