LIVE: The Tedeschi Trucks Band @ The Egg, 12/8/15
Review by Steven Stock
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
The twelve-piece Tedeschi Trucks Band ventured through a lot of territory in their well-received two-hour performance at The Egg’s Hart Theatre, covering songs made popular by Betty Harris, Bobby “Blue” Bland, the Box Tops, George Harrison and John Prine before sending everyone home happy with a rollicking version of the Coasters’ (or perhaps you prefer Ray Charles’ rendition?) nugget “Let’s Go Get Stoned.”
That disparate range of influences only begins to suggest this ensemble’s versatility. “Don’t Miss Me,” a rare carryover from the Derek Trucks Band repertoire, began as a conventional blues then suddenly veered left into Trout Mask Replica terrain. With three horns (saxophone, trumpet and trombone) and three backing vocalists, the overall sound of the group resembled an updated version of the Stax/Volt sound crossed with Joe Cocker’s early-’70 Mad Dogs & Englishmen. Cocker more or less poached the Mad Dogs from Leon Russell, but that didn’t prevent Russell (along with compatriots Rita Coolidge and Dave Mason) from joining Tedeschi Trucks in paying tribute to Cocker’s band earlier this year at the Lockn’ Festival in Arrington, Virginia.
At The Egg, it was refreshing to witness two performers who built their sizable reputations as superb guitarists subordinate their egos to work effectively in a big-band context. On the lengthy coda to “I Want More,” Derek Trucks did get his licks in while engaging in lovely dialogue with Kofi Burbridge’s flute, a passage evocative of Traffic at its finest.
Promisingly, two of the evening’s highlights were sneak previews of material from the band’s next album, tentatively scheduled for January. “Anyhow” found Susan Tedeschi’s powerful voice soaring over a sultry mid-tempo groove, with well-deployed horns and backing vocals helping build the song to an ecstatic climax. “Let Me Get By,” the forthcoming LP’s title track, is that rarest of creatures, an inspirational tract that largely eschews cliché.
A couple of quibbles: the two drummers seemed more redundant than complementary, so their combined efforts weren’t any more effective than having just one great drummer. And Tedeschi was perhaps too self-effacing with her guitar work. Like late-’50s Miles Davis, she expresses herself concisely and then turns the solo excursions over to ‘Trane – excuse me, I mean Trucks. She plays so beautifully that it would have been good to hear more from her.
Opener Deva Mahal is also blessed with a strong expressive voice, in her case perhaps a genetic legacy from father Taj Mahal. She’s got some good songs to her credit as well, although these skeletal arrangements (the only backing was some tasteful electric guitar from TV on the Radio’s Jaleel Bunton) didn’t realize the material’s full potential. Matters weren’t helped by the fact that the theater’s house lights were partially illuminated throughout their set, serving to make the off-stage action of late-arriving crowd members a distraction from the proceedings onstage. Nonetheless Mahal and Bunton made the best of a less-than-ideal situation and eventually won over a sizable segment of the audience. One looks forward to seeing Mahal again, perhaps with a full band in more congenial surroundings, such as Caffe Lena or Club Helsinki.
Greg Haymes’ review at The Times Union
THE TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND SET LIST
Made Up Mind
Don’t Know What It Means
The Letter (Wayne Carson)
Don’t Miss Me (Derek Trucks Band)
Something (George Harrison)
Let Me Get By
I Want More
Midnight in Harlem
There’s A Break in the Road (Allen Toussaint)
Angel from Montgomery (John Prine)
That Did It (Bobby Bland)
(instrumental) > The Storm
Let’s Go Get Stoned (Ashford, Simpson & Armstead)