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Tedeschi Trucks Band with Hot Tuna and The Wood Brothers at Red Rocks

Geoff Anderson By

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Tedeschi Trucks Band with Hot Tuna and The Wood Brothers
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Denver, CO
July 29-30, 2017

The Tedeschi Trucks juggernaut continues to snowball. The band's inaugural Denver concert in November 2011 was at the Fillmore Auditorium; capacity 3,000. The venue quickly shifted to an annual summer show at Red Rocks; capacity 9,000. Their first show at the iconic amphitheater didn't sell out, but that changed quickly and sell-outs became then norm. Then, this year, the public demanded two nights; over 18,000 tickets. That's a growth rate even a jaded hedge fund manager would have to admire (except, maybe, Martin Shkreli).

Tedeschi and Trucks continue to take their full 12 piece band on the road. Two drummers, three backing singers, a three piece horn section, bass and keyboards back up the husband and wife front line. It's a big sound and the leaders find endless ways to deploy all the crack players at their disposal. And, if a 12 piece band wasn't enough, guest musicians came and went throughout their sets.

TTB tends to play lengthy sets; two to two and a half hours apiece. Before the Red Rocks shows, the band promised to mix things up from night to night and keep it fresh. Indeed, the band repeated only two songs, "I Want More" and "Bound for Glory," both TTB originals. Over the course of the two evenings, the band performed most of their latest studio album, Let Me Get By (Fantasy, 2016). As usual, the set lists also included healthy doses of cover tunes as well. Two Derek and the Dominos tunes made the cut: "Keep on Growing" and "Any Day." Inclusion of tunes from that band has been typical since Trucks' time with Eric Clapton a few years ago on a tour that featured many Dominos songs. Other covers from the Classic Rock era included Wings' "Let Me Roll It," a medley of "Angel from Montgomery" and "Sugaree" and "Sweet Virginia." The blues were well represented with covers like "Leaving Trunk," "How Blue Can You Get," "I Pity the Fool," "The Sky is Crying" and "Get Out My Life, Woman."

Trucks was a guitar prodigy long before joining the Allman Brothers Band full time in 1999 and he's the one most TTB fans want to hear pouring out his pain on the fret board. Tedeschi, however, is also a long time guitarist, but her vocal abilities have long overshadowed her guitar work. Nevertheless, she has never been shy about throwing down guitar solos as a member of TTB and even when she was a guest musician with the Allman Brothers standing between Trucks and Warren Haynes. Last weekend, it was apparent her soloing has improved. And why not? That's bound to happen with any guitarist that spends a lot of time with somebody like Trucks. Her most notable solo was Sunday night on "I Pity the Fool," a song most closely associated with Bobby Blue Bland who first recorded it. Sunday night, however, she dedicated it to Buddy Guy, whose birthday was that day. Guy had recorded that one with B.B. King on King's Blues Summit (MCA, 1993). Tedeschi proceeded to grab the tune by the throat and didn't let go. Her impassioned vocal would have been enough to bring down the house on its own, but she upped the ante with an equally passionate guitar solo, even taking a page from Guy's book, playing the guitar behind her head and coming out to the front of the stage. Guy is known for wading into the crowd while he solos. Given the amount of groping a guy like Guy gets, Tedeschi's decision to merely stroll near the crowd and not into it was a wise one. So even for fans of Trucks' playing, it's still nice to hear other ideas. After all, if your favorite color is blue, you won't paint everything in your house blue, you'll probably want to use some other colors to add interest and variety.

Tedeschi and Trucks allow their backing musicians turns in the spotlight. Backing vocalist Mike Mattison came down front several times to take the lead vocal. The other vocalists, Mark Rivers and Alecia Chakour also sang solo. Especially notable was Chakour's bluesy, gospely pleading on "Bound for Glory." Speaking of Chakour, her dad, Mitch Chakour was a guest keyboardist on Leon Russell's "Delta Lady," a Sunday night rave-up. The elder Chakour has a long biography including an extended stint as Joe Cocker's keyboard player and musical director as well as tours with the J. Geils Band and work with blues players like Howlin' Wolf, Koko Taylor, Muddy Waters, Hubert Sumlin and Big Mama Thornton. TTB trumpeter Ephraim Owens got his solo turn on "Ali," a Miles Davis tune that had to be the selection from furthest out in left field. The song was based on a greasy, funky lick which gave Owens ample room to stretch. The tour is called "The Wheels of Soul Tour" and the other two bands on the bill are an integral part of the whole show. Tedeschi and Trucks are fans of Hot Tuna and the Wood Brothers and they also like hanging out with those guys, both of which are requirements to be invited to tour with TTB. Besides playing their own 45 minute sets each night, the opening bands joined TTB during their sets. Saturday night, Hot Tuna joined TTB for a cover of "3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds," a tune on Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow (RCA, 1967). That's the album that also included the major hits "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" along with lesser hits such as "Today" and "Coming Back to Me." Saturday night's selection was certainly a deep track and is part of the fun of covering those old tunes. Sunday night, Jack Casady, bassist of Hot Tuna joined TTB for Allen Toussaint's "Get Out My Life, Woman," which also featured backing vocalist Mike Mattison out front on vocals. The rest of Hot Tuna, Jorma Kaukonen on guitar and drummer Justin Guip then joined the fun for some down and dirty blues on "The Sky is Crying."

The Wood Brothers' spin with TTB included joining them for one of the encore tunes on Saturday night, "Let Me Roll It" by Paul McCartney and Wings from Band on the Run (Capitol, 1973). Sunday night's joint venture was a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Sweet Virginia."

Kaukonen and Casady, the core of Hot Tuna, got their start with the Jefferson Airplane in the late 60s, then formed Hot Tuna by 1970. Their opening set both nights, with Guip on drums, showcased the electric side of Hot Tuna. Since the band's beginning, they've alternated between playing acoustic and electric sets. The highlight of Saturday night's set was "Funky #7" from America's Choice (Grunt, 1975). The tune started with Casady laying down one of his heavy bass grooves. Ten minutes or so of guitar and bass improvisation followed mixed in with the lyrics and main theme of the song. The set also included "Roads and Roads," one from a Kaukonen solo album. Hot Tuna, like any self-respecting Classic Rock band, has always drawn heavily on the blues and that influence was strong Saturday night including a slow blues jam providing a vehicle for extended electric guitar solos by Kaukonen. However, their Sunday night set was the one that got down to the deepest blues with their cover of Muddy Waters' "I Can't Be Satisfied" and B.B. King's "Rock Me, Baby." To keep things super-heavy, they also threw in "Bow Legged Woman and Knock Kneed Man" from Hoppkorv (Grunt, 1976). Another old favorite was "99 Year Blues" from Burgers (Grunt, 1972).

The Wood Brothers, Oliver and Chris, grew up in Boulder, Colorado, only a few miles from Red Rocks, so the weekend shows were a bit of a homecoming for them. Jano Rix is the third member of the trio, playing drums, keyboards (sometimes simultaneously) and assorted percussion. The band's music is variously described as "folk" or sometimes "soul- folk." Either way, it's usually fairly rootsy and it's Oliver's somewhat nasal vocals that are the primary anchor to the "folk" label. But Chris Wood is the bassist. He's been with Medeski, Martin & Wood for 25 years. That's a band steeped in jazz and funk and sports serious jamming tendencies. Putting Chris Wood in a folk band is like putting a Maserati engine in a Conestoga.

The Wood Brothers' Saturday night set started with a few laconic folkish tunes, but that Maserati engine could only idle for so long. Things took a sharp left turn into Funkville when special guest John Medeski, Hammond B-3 man from Medeski, Martin & Wood joined the festivities. The first tune with Medeski also included the three backing singers from TTB and turned out to be a funky-gospel number that raised the energy level by several orders of magnitude. The singers then exited, but Medeski stayed for yet another funky excursion. Medeski wasn't finished when the Wood Brothers completed their set; he sat in on about half of TTB's set as well, once again adding a fresh, funky vibe to an already heady brew of musical mixology.

Sunday night's Wood Brothers' set got by without Medeski, but even then, the trio found some serious rhythm to get things shaking and rattling. A surprise guest on Sunday night was Zac Brown, in town for a concert of his own at the Rockies baseball stadium the night before. He joined the brothers for "Luckiest Man." Both nights featured Chris Wood dancing breaks; sometimes with his upright bass as his partner, sometimes solo. He did a kind of loose-jointed shuffle, simultaneously a bit off kilter and out of control yet graceful.

Sunday night's special guest was John Bell, lead singer from Widespread Panic. In contrast to Medeski sitting in with two of the bands including about half of TTB's set, Bell joined only TTB and then only for three songs. Although he wore a guitar for two of the tunes, he contributed little instrumentally. Advantage: Medeski. With the exception of a brief "Little Martha" quote, Saturday night's TTB set contained no references to the Allman Brothers or their recently fallen comrades. Original Allman Brothers drummer and Derek Trucks' uncle, Butch Trucks died on January 24 and Gregg Allman died on May 27. Sunday night's set rectified the matter starting with an extended quote from "Blue Sky" during the second song of the set, "Any Day." Then, toward the end of the set, "The Storm" morphed into "Whipping Post" with Trucks throwing down the guitar riff and, eventually, Tedeschi taking the vocal. That marked the end of the main set.

When Tedeschi returned to the stage, she was alone except for the band's new keyboard player, Carey Frank. She launched into a monolog, first explaining how their long-time keyboard man, Kofi Burbridge, had suffered some health problems recently (a heart attack in June) and Frank had been filling in while Burbridge recovers. She then talked about how the band had played Red Rocks in 2014 with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings on the bill and how Jones had danced barefoot in the puddles left on stage by a passing thunderstorm. Jones passed away in November of last year. Tedeschi then talked about other recent losses in the music business: Butch Trucks, Gregg Allman, Bruce Hampton and Leon Russell. She then sang Russell's poignant "A Song for You" with only Frank's accompaniment. Trucks, the drummers and bassist then returned to the stage and broke into "Statesboro Blues." "Will the Circle be Unbroken" followed and "Bound for Glory" concluded the tribute. The band had played "Bound for Glory" the previous night, but in this context, it took on a whole new dimension.

Trucks had played guitar with the Allman Brothers since he was 20 years old. The Allman Brothers always had a family vibe, including a large entourage accompanying them on their tours and a constant stream of guests sitting in on their sets. It's obvious that family tradition continues with the Tedeschi Trucks Band.

Tedeschi Trucks Set List Saturday Night: Don't Know What it Means; Keep on Growing; Little Martha interlude; Midnight in Harlem; Made up Mind; 3/5ths of a Mile in 10 Seconds (Jefferson Airplane) with Kaukonen and Casady; Bound for Glory; Leaving Trunk (Sleep John Estes); Ali (Miles Davis); Let Me Get By; Angel from Montgomery (John Prine)/Sugaree (Grateful Dead); How Blue Can You Get?; I Want More; Encore: Get What You Deserve; Let Me Roll It (Wings) with Wood Brothers; I Wish I Knew.

Tedeschi Trucks Set List Sunday Night: Laugh About It; Any Day; Right On Time; I Want More; Get Out My Life, Woman, with Casady bass; Sky is Crying, with Hot Tuna; Idle Wind; Sweet Virginia (Rolling Stones), with Wood Brothers; Down Along the Cove, with John Bell; Dark End of the Street, with John Bell; Delta Lady (Leon Russell), with Mitch Chacour and John Bell; I Pity the Fool; The Storm; Whipping Post; Encore: A Song for You (Leon Russell); Statesboro Blues; Will the Circle be Unbroken?; Bound for Glory.

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