Magic City Mule


Gov't Mule with Jackie Greene
Sloss Furnace
Birmingham, Alabama
July 22, 2010

There are many questions in regards to deities, perhaps more questions than answers. However, after witnessing what happened at Sloss Furnace in Birmingham, AL on August 22, one thing was plain to see: the gods above must love music. 

For a moment, it seemed that those in the sky that control the rain had a thought that it would be nifty to let the sky fall out. However this thought must have been fleeting, and all that the rain that preceded the sounds of Warren Haynes and Gov't Mule managed to do was cool down the scorching hot Alabama weather that had dominated the entire summer day in this city of Deep South steel.

Just as the rain ceased,  Mule slammed through Birmingham like the figurative thunderstorm that only moments before had seemed like it would be something literal. Judging by the power and force with which the quartet came out of the gate, it is clear that Gov't Mule is rejoicing during this year's summer tour. The fierceness with which they took the stage was matched by only one thing: the reception from those who had been patiently waiting. Some might scoff and say, "if you've seen one Mule show, you seen them all."  Tonight this performance would prove that belief to be lazy preconception and foolish prejudice.

mule-01.jpgThis band has continued to evolve in the face of loss, be it original bassist Allen Woody's untimely passing or the Matt Abts to Jorgen Carlsson personnel change.  Sometimes there is a loss of momentum when these not so fortunate things occur.   For the Mule, this circumstance has proven to be less than a bump in the road.  The "get er' done" attitude of Gov't Mule has smashed the notion that things have to slow down, evident with both the increasing multitude of a fan base and their ever so active presence on the road.  The band today is just as complete as it was during the Allen Woody days.

Make no mistake that this is a nothing but a compliment to the legacy of thunderous bass that Woody brought to the table.  Warren still shreds the guitar like there is no tomorrow and Matt Abts shows the skins of his drums no mercy while the musicianship of Danny Louis and Carlsson accent the mold of "Mule" perfectly. What happens through the intermingling of these elements is a made-to-order delivery of the sound fans have continue to incessantly devour. But prior to the feast, fans would be treated to a taste of San Francisco with a warm up session with Jackie Greene and his band.

Greene is no stranger to Gov't Mule, having cultivated a strong relationship with the band over the years through his association with Phil Lesh, and in punching out opening duties, he offered a modest yet entertaining set of upbeat Rock & Roll tunes to get the crowd moving. 

In spite of Jackie's beginnings and introduction to the scene as a young Dylan type, this performance proved that the young Californian has come into his own.  Nonetheless, in homage to his origin to the scene and his deep love for its founders, Jackie ended his set with a feisty serving of the Grateful Dead's "Scarlet Begonias," a perfect fusing effort for what was to come. With this, the crowd took a brief break from the tunes to make necessary preparations for the main event, Gov't Mule.

Beginning with verbal whispered notes from Haynes' right hand man, Brian Farmer, the Mule went into a slow bluesy rock instrumental to get things cooking.  It served as a simmering number in which Warren gave the crowd a warm welcome. 

Following the intro, the Mule boys came out hard with the familiar favorite, "Blind Man in the Dark." This tune set the tone was set for what would be a tug-o-war of an evening between recent and earlier material. 

mule-02.jpgThough often blocked from view because of the massive array of keyboards, master of the keys Danny Louis was given the chance to be front and center with axe in hand for "Steppin' Lightly," where he delivered rhythmic riffs alongside Warren and Carlsson.

After mildly extensive equal opportunity jam swaps, "Lola Leave Your Light On" was next and was definitely the point where the show gained momentum and gave the green light for some really nice transitional jams that eventually found their home in "Mother Earth." It was in this tune that Gov't Mule exuded the joy of honest performance, in all of rawness and distinct subtleties.  

Despite an extremely extensive musical catalog, fans can still rely on signature tunes like "Rocking Horse" to make them gyrate with record movement.  This tune would be the first set closer and from the looks of most in attendance, this strong finishing number would give a much needed break from the onslaught of rock & roll energy that was unleashed.

Mule began set two right where they had left Birmingham faithful. Staying musically congruent, the set swung back and forth between signature favorites and some not so common gems, beginning with "Child of the Earth," a beautifully lazy tune in which Warren's bluesy voice is accented by soft bass tones from Jorgen. This was the perfect song choice for the hot, sweaty night in one of the city's oldest steel mills.

mule-03.jpgThe second set was definitely built for the Gov't Mule aficionado; tunes like "Mr. Big" and "King's Highway had not been performed for between five and ten months respectively, and the audience was not scant in showing their appreciation for these tracks. Their excitement seemed to spread to those who seemed less familiar with the band as a whole – the energy that was bred from the stage, amplifiers, and sub woofers landed in the dancing feet of the crowd.

After the traditional exit from the stage, the band would return for a double encore. Mule welcomed Greene to the stage for a performance of the Grateful Dead's "Loser" followed by The Rolling Stone's "Monkey Man." With this, the crowd was left fully satiated.

In its entirety, this show was a treat for Birmingham, an incredible show that highlighted many different facets of Gov't Mule's musical journey. Magic City Huka Entertainment's A.J. Nieland may have summed it up best when he referred to Gov't Mule as being "like family."  Family exudes a feeling of home, and with that said it the resident Mules of Birmingham will leave the front porch light on in as they anxiously await the return of their brothers, Warren and his gang.

Click the thumbnail for more shots of B'ham Mule