To say Derek Trucks has come a long way is an understatement. For every child prodigy that has continued success in their field, there are dozens, maybe hundreds, that disappear from the public eye.
Well, Trucks made it.
That’s not news to anyone.
But, years removed from the Derek Trucks Band and months removed from the Allman Brothers’ final shows, the guitarist’s current outfit, the Tedeschi Trucks Band is his best “solo” act yet. The fully-formed Tedeschi Trucks Band is a powerful beast on all fronts, and provides a depth that Trucks never had with his self-named group. With two drummers the band has the percussive heft that the Allman Brothers had, but the horn section provides a different facet – a funk and soul dimension that propels the group to heights that weren’t really possible inside the Allman Brothers’ setting.
Simply put, this is one heavy group, and they proved it at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis.
Willie Watson opened the show, and set the table with his brand of bluegrass/folk. Watson, formerly of Old Crow Medicine Show, delivered songs tinged with a wry wit and sense of humor that retrospectively provided a foil to the main act. Watson is a great story-teller, but unfortunately there’s only so much one man can do on stage on his own, and after several songs they all seemed to blend together. He shook things up by switching between banjo and guitar (with some harmonica thrown in), but it’s became hard (for this ignorant writer) to differentiate one tune from the other.
When the Tedeschi Trucks Band finally hit the stage, the room was pretty full. While not a sell-out, the crowd was rowdy and ready for anything. The band started off with “Made Up Mind,” the title track from their latest album, and never looked back.
Watching Derek Trucks is simply a treat. There’s no flash or frills – just mind-blowing slide guitar and finger picking. Over the course of two hours, it was an absolute clinic on how to play guitar with ego set completely aside.
Vocalist Mike Mattison, who was lead for the Derek Trucks Band, took stage front for lead vocals on “Don’t Miss Me” and “Get What You Deserve,” tunes from the Derek Trucks Band days, and Susan’s vocals on the Derek & the Dominoes track “Keep On Growing” would have made Eric Clapton proud.
The band showed their versatility, toning it down a bit for “Shelter,” and paid homage to Bobby Bland with a take on his “I Pity the Fool.” The set-closing “Bound For Glory” was tremendous, and frankly Derek’s solo on the “The Storm” would have been worth the price of admission alone.
Derek and Susan have clear chemistry on stage, a good thing considering their husband-and-wife relationship. But, the bond is more than just familial – it’s musical, which is in its own right a powerful thing. It’s going to be really interesting to watch the band continue to evolve, because there are so many directions that Derek and Susan are capable of steering the ship.
Set: Made Up Mind, Do I Look Worried, The Sky Is Crying, Don’t Miss Me, Comin’ Home, Shelter, Keep on Growing, Get What You Deserve, I’ve Got a Feeling, Idle Wind, I Pity the Fool, Bound for Glory
Encore: The Storm