Wheels of Soul Tour rolls into Mississippi

Tedeschi Trucks Band
Wheels of Soul Tour
Southaven, Mississippi
July 25, 2018
Writer/Photographer: Josh Mintz

There’s a certain art to putting a multi-band tour together. You need to put a diverse group of artists on the bill, but there has to be a certain cohesion. The Tedeschi Trucks Band succeeded in a major way with the 2018 edition of their Wheels of Soul tour.

They had the young gunslinger with Marcus King.

They had the gritty, grimy, road-worn (in a positive way) Drive-By Truckers.

And then there was the headliner, the host…the Tedeschi Trucks Band. When Winterland closed in 1978, Bill Graham said of the Grateful Dead “They aren’t the best at what they do, they are the only ones that do what they do.” That quote fits the TTB today.

The Wheels of Soul tour rolled into Southaven, Mississippi on Wednesday, July 25. Southaven is basically a suburb of Memphis, Tennessee, and while there’s a sizable fanbase for all of the bands on the bill, a Wednesday show is tough in the market. So, while there was a decent crowd, it was nowhere near capacity, and come show day, there were freebie tickets and discounted seats galore.

The Marcus King Band opened the evening, and if there ever was a mini Warren Haynes, this kid is it. His guitar chops are great, and he’s got a voice that’s got soul that belies his age. His short set was the perfect table setter. While “Thespian Espionage” was great, nothing the band would play in their abbreviated set would top when Derek Trucks came out to duel King on the tune Trucks recorded with the band in the studio, “Self-Hatred.”

The Truckers held the second spot on the bill, and were the perfect mediator – they had the same Southern roots as the opener and headliner, but provided a slightly different flavor of music. While King and TTB are guitar-driven machines, the Truckers’s strength is their songwriting and storytelling. DBT played a solid set with a tremendous cover of the Ramones’ “The KKK Took My Baby Away” and a solid “My Sweet Annette,” but was capped off when Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstar joined the band on electric washboard on “Babies in Cages.” Dickinson added a gritty edge to an already gritty song.

It may sound like hyperbole, but there’s probably not a better band touring right now than the Tedeschi Trucks Band. There are no weak links at all. Great singing? Check. Great rhythm section? Check. Horn section? Check.

And then there’s Derek. It can’t be overstated that the dude is on another planet when it comes to guitar playing. He’s a freak (in a good way).

TTB came out strong with “Made Up Mind,” and really, never took their foot off the gas. They delivered a solid set that touched on all eras of Trucks’s catalogue. They nailed “Chevrolet,” a song the Derek Trucks Band covered (and recorded), they played DTB’s “Mahjoun,” and even encored with Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues,” a song often incorrectly attributed to the Allman Brothers because they popularized it (but more on that later).

Susan Tedeschi’s voice is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Equal parts sugar and spice, she’s the perfect foil to Derek’s guttural but tender guitar. “Shelter” was one of the standout songs of their set, and it was predominantly vocal-driven, which says a lot for a band so instrumentally powered. The band utterly destroyed another cover the Derek Trucks Band recorded, Bob Dylan’s “Down in the Flood.” The set closed with an absolutely immense “Idle Wind,” and the crowd was begging for more from a band who had already laid it all out on stage.

The TTB kicked off their encore with the aforementioned “Statesboro Blues,” augmented by Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, a 19-year-old blues prodigy from the heart of the blues – Clarksdale, Mississippi. Ingram, Trucks, and Tedeschi eventually ended up in the solo section of the song, trading solo licks as the crowd ate every note up.

As the Wheels of Soul packed up and moved on, no complaints could be made. The bands provided everything the soul needs – great lyrics and great musicianship. Most importantly, each band that took the stage poured every ounce of effort they had into their craft…a rarity these days.