Published since 2003
DC writes regularly about rock and roll, jazz and the blues, composing reviews of CD's, DVD's, live performances, books and films, as well as conducting interviews.
God bless the Mule! As the quartet ambled onstage, heavy wind and rain pelted the huge tent at the Bank of America Pavilion, assaulting those audience members close to the edge of the seated area. Warren Haynes and company seemed to know those concertgoers needed some warmth and so they opened on high heat, with "Bad Little Doggie and "Slack Jaw Jezebel, a combination of caterwauling vocal, furious rhythm and fiery guitar.
This second tune was the only one to be played from Gov't Mule's Deja Voodoo album, which they've spent the better part of two years supporting on the road. The show was full of surprises in the form of new tunesfrom the soon-to-be released Mule studio set High And Mighty and fascinating covers, including one, "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," they've never previously performed.
The Eric Burdon & The Animals hit opened the band's second set in deceptively muted toneWarren Haynes sang with controlled passion, matched by lethal guitar work that turned more fluid and melodious as the set progressed. The Allman Brother's interaction with bassist Andy Hess elevated a tune from the forthcoming album, the reggae tinged "Unring The Bell, to a memorable level (one not immediately apparent in the song in itself). Likewise, the skanking approach to the encore, "Soulshine a tribute perhaps to opener Michael Franti and Spearhead---freshened up an otherwise predictable tune.
But it was the first set of Mule that confirmed why the band is worth seeing on a regular basis. A cathartic version of "Banks Of The Deep End during the second hour was appropriate given the weather (and as a reference to the departed original Mule, Allen Woody, as it segued from one of the group's earliest tunes, "Trane ). Enjoyably appropriate too was the way Haynes led the band into Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks midway through "I Think You Know What I Mean between the line about "if it keeps on rainin' and recognition of the tune itself, the fans went into a frenzy.
Things were still hitting red on the dial when the band eased their way delicately into "Mountain Jam. To hear the Allman Brothers' set-piece, led by a lynchpin of the group for upwards of fifteen years, was a real treat, especially as Mule played it less sweetly and more crisply than ABB tends, and rocked out for close to ten minutes.
The two standout tracks from the new Mule album, "Mr. High And Mighty and "Brand New Angel, bode well for the band and the disc. But it's hard to know how typical these two straightforward hard rockers are of High And Mighty (which has been selected from eighteen tracks recorded earlier this year). What's important, and promising, is that the group played them with great confidence and authority.
As telling as references to the weather, and nods to the opening act, personal and musical self-references included yet another reggae flavored tune, "I'm A Ram. Performed by Big Sugar, a group helmed by the producer of the new Gov't Mule set, Gordie Johnson, it's representative of the thought that goes into a Mule set listand by extension the intellect at work as Warren Haynes leads his band.
De rigeur drum solos from Matt Abst aside---and don't dare talk about condescension when the guitarist enacts call and response with keyboardist/vocalist Danny Louisyou never know exactly what you're going to get when you go to see Gov't Mule.
You can rely on crushing hard rock interlaced with fluid melody and deeply felt singing, but the likes of shows like this one are the stuff of potential legend...both for the chemistry at work within the band and their interaction with their audience.
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Gov't Mule: From the Road
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