Rock & Roll Rewind: Tedeschi Trucks Band
c d kaplan is a rock n roll lifer. He’s got stories. Lots of stories. Here’s another.
This one’s a short trip with Mr. Peabody in the Wayback Machine.
Back to last Saturday night in Indy where I heard the Tedeschi Trucks Band.
While walking out of that two and a half hour show in the great outdoor pavilion downtown in White River State Park, I thought “that's the best live performance of music I’ve ever attended.”
Which feeling, as many incredible concerts I’ve been blessed to experience through the decades, I can’t recall saying. Favorite? Yes. Top Ten? Yes. But never singular best.
Acknowledging my propensity for hyperbole and my belief TTB is the best performing rock band extant — my favorite musical ensemble — I’ve attempted to objectively assess my subjective opinion.
So, before getting to the show’s highlights, allow me to share the critical criteria used to vet my judgement.
Are the band members top shelf musicians, and do they fit together seamlessly?
Were they on top of their game, taking their repertoire to fresh, uncharted levels?
Were the improvisations inspired and devoid of indulgence?
Were the band and the crowd locked in, feeding off each other’s energy?
The band opened with a killer version of Dr. John’s “I Walk on Gilded Splinters,” which they start with deep mysterious bayou chant by Susan Tedeschi and the group’s other singers, Mike Mattison, Alecia Chakour and Mark Rivers.
The crowd from the front row to the lawn up the hill jumped to its feet. And remained so for the entirety of the show.
On the next tune, “Do I Look Worried,” Derek Trucks incendiary solo had folks screaming about a third of the way through. Not only the dudes in Eat A Peach t-shirts, also the seventy-something women dressed to the nines.
Those interactions between crowd and performers never abated. The band knew they were on. They couldn’t stop smiling at faces in the crowd and also at what each other were doing during moments in the spotlight.
There are times during TTB shows when the horn section — Kebbi Williams on sax, Elizabeth Lea on trombone, Ephraim Owens on trumpet — do what I call “going Ornette Coleman.” Jazzy sometime dissonant honks and squeaks. Normally, even the most fawning TTB crowds will simply indulge such fare, biding time until the rockin’ returns.
Not Saturday, when there were screams of appreciation.
Of the many of their own tunes they played, “I Am the Moon” and the sublime “Midnight in Harlem” with a concise mood-setting intro by Trucks were, dare I say, soothing moments of calm.
Oh yeah, they also did the Allman’s “Dreams.” At which point, I said to myself, “they’re not going to give me a break tonight, are they?”
A cover of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” morphed into the Dead’s “Sugaree.”
Derek Trucks’ stylings are ever excellent. To my ears, he rarely makes a false step. This night, he kicked it up a notch.
Plus he did something I’ve never seen him do in the dozen or so times I’ve heard TTB live. He has a tendency, like major influence Dickey Betts, to ever so slightly jump the beat when starting a solo. I forget which song, but when it was time for him to jump in, he was at his amp fiddling with the knobs. His bride looked over quizzically.
After several bars of band vamping in anticipation, he launched into a Hendrixian solo, unlike any I’ve ever heard him play.
The finale, with the entirety of opener Ziggy Marley’s band joining in, was a searing, devoid of chaff fifteen minute Sly & Family Stone mashup of “Sing A Simple Song” and a Houston we have lift off “I Want to Take You Higher.’
Days later, I feel the same as when I floated outta the joint, I’ve never heard better.