The Tedeschi Trucks Band: Burlington, Vermont, October 18, 2011
The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts
October 18, 2011
The Tedeschi Trucks Band offered an expertly-executed show to a near sold-out house at the Flynn Center on October 18, 2011. It was little wonder the audience trekked out satiated at the end of the muted gospel encore, especially because the final thirty minutes was conceived (contrived?) to enhance the cumulative effect of the previous two hours of mature and largely honest musicianship.
The concert wasn't quite so impressive as TTB's studio album, Revelator (Sony Masterworks, 2011), simply because the brilliant balance of ensemble playing and craft present on a record simply can't translate effectively to the live setting. And while it's too early to tell, this eleven-piece group having only been in existence with this lineup for a year or somay never replicate the startlingly intuitive spontaneity of The Derek Trucks Band. Tedeschi Trucks isn't built that way.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band emphasizes songs over improvisation, and the most memorable moments of the evening came early in the set when smart choices were rendered with versatility similar to their recorded work. Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'" hardly resembled the Harry Nilsson version used for the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy, but it worked to exhibit not just TTB's skill at arranging, but the band's smooth cohesion. "Comin' Home," from the Delaney and Bonnie era with Eric Clapton, was even more dynamic, from the recurring guitar hook to the horn section, which blew from a whisper to a roar and back again (though erratic house sound didn't always deliver the carefully layered sound upon which TTB relies).
Guitarist Derek Trucks' solo there was a thing of beauty too. The patient means by which he can build a solo remains something to behold, as does the combination of power and precision he's developed over the years. While the concept of this band doesn't allow for the lengthy improvisations he can support, those moments when he walked stage left and bonded with the core of the eleven-piece unit keyboardist/vocalist Kofi Burbridge, bassist Oteil Burbridge (Kofi's brother) and dual drummers JJ Johnson and Tyler Greenwellcreated the most explosive intervals of the evening.
Otherwise, it seemed most of Trucks' solos went over the collective head of those in attendance, to the point that a noticeable lack of response to his spotlighted performances suggested he'd lost their attention at those moments. Certainly, those intervals of did not draw the same rousing acclamation as Susan Tedeschi's singing and guitar playing, in particular during the only slow blues of the set, where she reached down to sing outside her comfort zone, before and after playing smart electric guitar passages that, while they couldn't compare to her husband's in intricacy or ingenuity, were the work of a musician with a feel for the music.
The standing ovation that greeted that segment of the show was just a precursor to the loud call for an encore after the audience had been further fired up by a medley of "Sing a Simple Song" and "Dance to the Music." Not just a reminder of Sly & The Family Stone's fusion of funk and rock, forged in the late sixties, it capped an extended exercise in familiarity following Stevie Wonder's "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" which, while it wasn't so perfectly arranged, carried a crowd- pleasing element that amplified the effect of The Tedeschi Trucks Band's overall performance.
Every member of the group had a spotlight during the course of the concert. Oteil Burbridge's bass-cum-scat solo, however, was nowhere near as telling about his contributions to The Tedeschi Trucks Band dynamic as the diving, swooping bass lines he launched at regular intervals during Derek & The Dominos' "Any Day," where vocalist Mike Mattison traded verses with Tedeschi, and Trucks played one of his fieriest solos of the night.
Given the irrepressible stage presence that grew out of the erstwhile Allman Brothers Band's pleasure in playing, nobody in the theater may have enjoyed themselves more than he did this autumn evening. And there was plenty of joy to go around The Flynn Center, by the time the attendees filed out of the theatre right at the 11:00pm curfew.