LIVE: Drive-By Truckers @ The Egg, 7/25/17
Review by Steven Stock
Over the last 20-plus years Drive-By Truckers have amassed an impressive catalog of memorable songs, and they breezed through 25 of them last week at The Egg’s Hart Theatre. Songwriters Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley impart a definite Southern flavor and a flair for the vernacular to compositions such as “Filthy and Fried,” “Dead, Drunk and Naked” and crowd-favorite “Shit Shots Count.”
They earned bonus points for playing my favorite self-referential game – singing rock songs about rock – not once but twice, first with “Ronnie and Neil” (Van Zant and Young, as you, of course, knew) and then with the irresistible stomp and swagger of “Let There Be Rock.”
Another rock reference was their rousing cover of the Ramones’ “The KKK Took My Baby Away,” with bassist Mike Patton stepping up to the mic for his lone lead vocal turn. While it might have seemed like pure fun, a mere nod to the band’s roots, the song fits in quite nicely with the Truckers’ progressive politics, and their repeated assertion that politics are personal. Many claim that Joey Ramone wrote the tune after losing his girlfriend Linda to guitarist and ardent Reagan supporter Johnny Ramone.
“Made Up English Oceans” was another highlight, using a fractured non-linear narrative ostensibly to explore the methods of a Republican dirty-tricks operative not dissimilar to Lee Atwater, although in typical DBT fashion writer Cooley also works in sly cryptic references to urban legends about Rod Stewart and Phil Collins.
Utility player Jay Gonzalez played a major role in making the concert so successful. When he was on keyboards, the Drive-By Truckers conjured a sound not too far removed from Sticky Fingers-era Rolling Stones, a classic twin-guitar attack with some barrelhouse piano underpinning the rhythm section. Gonzalez often switched to guitar and played many of the trickiest finesse-laden parts. The three-man guitar-army sounded more like the Outlaws than the Stones.
As good as this performance was, it would have benefited from more consideration of dynamics and greater instrumental variety. It was a nice change of pace when one of the guitarists switched to an acoustic instrument, and it might have been even better to send the rhythm section offstage and have both Hood and Cooley on acoustic for a Dixie-fried country interlude, maybe two or three songs. A dose of Cooley’s banjo playing would have been welcome as well.
Opening act the Seratones hail from Shreveport, Louisiana. The main attraction of this quartet is vocalist A.J. Haynes, who learned to sing in the Brownsville Baptist Church. That’s probably not where she learned to jump offstage and sashay through the crowd – perhaps her day job as a high school teacher gives her the confidence to do that. The Seratones left more of an impression than most opening acts could hope for. Their debut album Get Gone is available now from Fat Possum.
DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS SET LIST
Filthy and Fried
Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife
Dead, Drunk and Naked
Guitar Man Upstairs
Darkened Flags on the Cusp of Dawn
Surrender Under Protest
The Company I Keep
A Ghost to Most
The Guns of Umpqua
Where the Devil Don’t Stay
Puttin’ People on the Moon
Shit Shots Count
Ronnie and Neil
The KKK Took My Baby Away (The Ramones)
Made Up English Oceans
Let There Be Rock
What It Means
Love Like This
THE SERATONES SET LIST
Choking on Your Spit
Sun Kingdom Come
Take It Easy
Don’t Need It