Like Warren Haynes' Man in Motion (Stax 2011), Live at the Moody Theatre contains a single performance that transcends virtually all the remaining tracks of its two CDs and one DVD. On "Your Wildest Dreams," Haynes' singing is as fiercely restrained as his guitar work and all the more powerful for that discipline.
Close to the longest cut on the set at 11-plus minutes, there is nevertheless not a wasted note in the creation of an emotional impact that appears only sporadically elsewhere. A bonus track included on the DVD nevertheless comes close: performing only with bassist Ron Johnson and drummer Terence Higgins (on hand drum), Haynes' reading of "Patchwork Quilt," an account of his learning of Jerry Garcia's death, brings that moment alive in all its deeply bittersweet emotion.
Haynes' touring bandaugmented here by keyboardist/vocalist Nigel Hall plus the three-piece Grooveline Horns on selected numbersis generally not a match for his improvisational savvy, but it does rise to the unique occasion of this Austin, Texas recording from November 3, 2011. In fact, there's an unmistakable elevation in the authenticity of the sound when the horns, Haynes and the rhythm section perform "Man in Motion" and "Take A Bullet," in comparison to the fairly flat- lined renditions of "River's Gonna Rise" and "Sick of My Shadow," where saxophonist Ron Holloway solos in static fashion, while saxophonist Carlos Sosa, trumpeter Fernando Castillo and trombonist Reggie Watkins add fire to the arrangements, particularly as they punch in-between Haynes' rhythm and lead guitar parts.
Almost all the tracks of the studio recording appear in the first set, evincing a similarly formulaic approach to composing and arranging. William Bell and Booker T. Jones' "Every Day Will Be Like a Holiday" is as much of a standout in concert as on disc, one of the few selections worth its extended workout over ten minutes. Jimi Hendrix's "Spanish Castle Magic" and Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" are part of an impressive, if not to say ambitious array of covers, only the latter of which truly fits the stylistic concept. Still, during Steely Dan's "Pretzel Logic," The Warren Haynes Band brings all the soulful but discerning eye to the lyrics Walter Becker and Donald Fagen could've envisioned, while its deliberate shuffle creates an ominous air that's also in keeping with the leader's R&B/soul concept.
Apart from the surprise factor of the outside material, though, the ensemble brings little new to them. Ultimately, this is not an instrumental lineup with imagination comparable to its leaderor the willingness to challenge him. As a result, there are but a handful of moments here Haynes sounds like he's playing music close to his heart. Still, the level of inspiration there is enough of a reminder as to why he is worth following, and why this packagescrupulously professional, immaculately polished and efficiently designedis worth returning to.
CD1: Man In Motion; River's Gonna Rise; Sick Of My Shadow; A Friend To You; On A Real
Lonely Night; Power & The Glory (DVD Only); Invisible. CD2: Take A Bullet; Hattiesburg
Hustle; Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday; Frozen Fear; Dreaming The Same Dream;
Pretzel Logic; Fire In The Kitchen; A Change Is Gonna Come; Spanish Castle Magic; WHB
Intro>Tear Me Down. Encore: Your Wildest Dreams>Soulshine. DVD Only Bonus
Tracks:Patchwork Quilt; Hattiesburg Hustle.
Warren Haynes: vocals, guitar; Ron Johnson: bass; Terence Higgins:drums, Nigel Hall:
keyboards, vocals; Ron Holloway: saxophone: Alecia Chakour: vocals; Ian McLagan:
keyboards (7-9); The Grooveline Horns (8, 9, 15) - Carlos Sosa: saxophone; Fernando
Castillo: trumpet; Reggie Watkins: trombone.
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