Derek Trucks Band - Variety Playhouse

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The "idea" for last night began a month or more ago with a planned trip to the Sweetwater Brewery after work.  This was a successful venture, with a moderate crowd for their two hour sampling "tour."  In addition to their regular offerings, they also had seasonal beers on tap, including "Motor Boat," carrying possibly a caramel flavor in a reddish ale classified as extra strong bitter, and their "Seasonal Ale," a darker ale with perhaps a chocolate and nutmeg flavor.  Both were very good.

Wait! This is a concert review, isn't it?

A short distance away, The Derek Trucks Band played their second night at my favorite local venue, Variety Playhouse, and this concert became a spectacular finish for an evening out.

We arrived early and found seats about 60' from the stage as the crowd began to enter.  The opening act was Tinsley Ellis, a local bluesman who headlined at the venue only a month or so earlier.  In fact, he's so comfortable with the venue that he was milling about the audience prior to the show.  Drinking Red Bull. Cool.

Tinsley Ellis 12-3-09 Variety Playhouse

His set began pretty much on time, and about half of his songs were from his new CD, Speak No Evil, which I'll get around to reviewing shortly. 

Tinsley Ellis 12-3-09 Variety Playhouse

Ellis plays an aggressive blues rock, usually staying true to the blues scales but if there's ever a few subtler moments in a solo, it's only so that he can build it back to full throttle.  He does mix in other styles for some variety, and he is clearly a master of the wah pedal.

Ellis plays as a trio, also featuring drums and bass.  His bassist goes by the name Evil 1 and even has a matching hat.  I couldn't help but think of Thing 1 and Thing 2.  In concert, it's fair to say that his fretwork is felt more than heard.

It was definitely a satisfying set from a skilled guitarist.  Live! Highwayman is recommended as an introduction to his music, or the video clip at the end of this post.

A short time later, Derek and his band took the stage, beginning with rather soothing slide guitar after Ellis' onslaught.  I had been eager to see him in concert after listening earlier this year to his most recent CD, Already Free, and the timing was fortuitous as the band is taking 2010 off.

Trucks has released 6 studio CDs, most of which included covers of others' work.  His new songs were exceptional in concert, largely defining the best moments of the concert.  Trucks is more accustomed to a looser jam approach to live performances, and the tone, vocals, and tunefulness of these songs helped keep the spirit of the show together. 

Derek Trucks Band - 12/03/09 Variety Playhouse

This is not to diminish the enjoyment of the jams, featuring the talents of a large and seemingly innumerable supporting cast.  The keyboardist/flautist was featuredTrucks and Tedeschi - 12/03/09 Variety Playhouse heavily, but the sonic range was also filled with trombone, tenor sax, percussion, drums, bass, and a bevy of guests. 

These included Trucks' wife, Susan Tedeschi on vocals and guitar (both are nominated for Grammy awards this year), Jimmy Herring (Widespread Panic, Allman Brothers Band, others), two guest drummers (one from the Doobie Brothers), a mystery vocalist, and a finale including Tinsley Ellis.

Derek Trucks and Jimmy Herring - 12/03/09 Variety Playhouse

The only misfire during the evening, to my ears, was "My Favorite Things," from The Sound of Music.  There were certainly good moments, but it ventured in so many directions that the chorus was only a regrouping point after travels elsewhere.  It never sustained a groove. 

Tinsley, Trucks, Herring - 12/03/09 Variety Playhouse

This was more than made up for by a lengthy and energetic cover of Derek & The Domino's "Anyday," not to mention a fiery "Key to the Highway" amidst the encores.

Trucks' stage presence is interesting.  He's featured front and center, but faces to the side seemingly from humility or shyness.  On the other hand, this allows the entire audience to clearly see his fingers work the frets, which is a treat. 

Derek Trucks - 12/03/09 Variety Playhouse

It was a great show, and I wouldn't hesitate to see him again.  Only, maybe not on a weeknight.  We left at 11:45, and we may have left a second encore behind us.  The morning came early...

From other performances:


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