Published on February 26th, 2015 | by Stratton Lawrence0
Tedeschi Trucks Band Brings Soulful Rainy Night Rock
Tedeschi Trucks Band, Spirit Family Reunion
North Charleston Performing Arts Center
“Is it still raining out there?” asked Spirit Family Reunion’s Stephen Weinheimer from behind his dobro, midway through the Brooklyn-based neo-traditional string band’s opening set on Wednesday night at the North Charleston PAC. In a style pioneered by the Felice Brothers, borrowing from both Old Crow Medicine Show and a long history of New York City folk groups, Spirit Family Reunion astutely lubricated the crowd for the Tedeschi Trucks Band, as a good opener should.
Shining best when guitarist Nick Panken handled lead vocals — their rousing take on the campfire classic “Buffalo Girls” was a highlight — the band successfully merges modern hipster credo with an appropriate respect to the history of rowdy, gather-round-the-mic jug band music that’s proceeded them (and with a requisite banjo playing woman, Maggie Carson, to boot).
Although the rain continued outside, the room filled with an excited, estimated crowd of 1,400 by 8:30 p.m., when Tedeschi Trucks Band’s ten members casually took the stage and dropped into their definitive rendition of Herbie Hancock’s “Space Captain,” with its driving “learning to live together” refrain. The band hit the accelerator from the first riffs, with Derek Truck’s guitar amps seemingly turned even louder than normal.
“That was a strong opener!” my wife exclaimed. Indeed.
The night had its subtle moments and finessed transitions, as in the segue from “Idle Wind” into a Derek-led raga groove into the dual drum solos of Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson, but overall, it was an evening of hard, driving rock. There was no “Midnight in Harlem” or “Sweet and Low,” the soft, swinging ballad from the group’s sophomore release, Made Up Mind. Rather, the night was about full-on wailing from Susan, peanut butter solos from Derek (both crunchy and smooth), and saxophone freak-outs from the horn-trio’s standout, Kebbi Williams.
Matching its place on the track list of Made Up Mind, the band’s second song was “Do I Look Worried,” kicking off a setlist that drew heavily from that most recent release, interspersed with live favorites like the blues standard “Key to the Highway,” which brought vocalist Mike Mattison to the front of the stage to sing lead.
The evening’s best moments came as the tight, organized sections of songs gave way to improvisation, as in Trucks’ masterful disintegration of “It’s So Heavy” and his interplay with pianist/flautist Kofi Burbridge on “All That I Need” (at nearly mid-show, it was the first time Trucks truly opened up and let his guitar rip).
With the audience now at their mercy, Tedeschi summoned the audience to their feet for a roaring “Break in the Road.”
“It’s a debate,” she acknowledged of the decision whether to sit or stand in a seated venue, then exclaiming, “Derek says, ‘We’re standing.’ We play better if you’re standing.”
But after the theater finally rose, Tedeschi and Trucks sat down for a mid-set take on the Allman Brothers Band’s “Done Somebody Wrong” and a stripped down version (with only Tedeschi and newly enlisted bassist Tim Lefebvre) of “Shelter.”
The band’s closing segment kept everyone back on their feet, featuring a tight “Misunderstood” and a creative, original take on James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” that found Susan and vocalist Mark Rivers swapping lead between the chorus and verses.
The set-ending “Bound for Glory” concluded the show with the blissful fury only a dual-drummer, full band like Tedeschi Trucks can accomplish, before returning for a straight rock ‘n’ roll take on “The Storm,” minus the horns and vocalists.
Halfway through the song, Susan took a seat at the side of the stage, ceding attention fully to Derek while he offered his strongest assault on the guitar of the evening. Bassist Lefebvre literally had to catch his cowboy hat from flying into the air as he moved with the forceful beat. The appropriately titled song capped the evening, with no room for a second encore, and at 10:30 p.m. we were turned loose into a literal storm outside. But for a couple of hours, Tedeschi Trucks demonstrated that even on a hump day night amidst a busy tour, what was arguably an average performance for this troupe of musicians still lights a fire that most bands barely glimpse on their most red hot Saturday nights.
Photos by Ballard Lesemann.
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