Saw the Tedeschi Trucks Band at Seattle's McCaw Hall last night, and they were pretty freakin' great. There was a lot of instrumental showing-off, and that's what the audience seemed to want. But it was all good fun.
TTB did several songs from their last album LET ME GET BY -- they opened with the great "Anyhow," still the best thing I've heard this year -- and all those songs sounded stronger live than they did on the CD. "Things Ain't What They Seem" and the title song are still going around in my head.
The rest of the show was covers and unusual choices. Their cover of B.B. King's "How Blue Can You Get?" featured an excellent gutsy vocal from Susan Tedeschi. Susan and two backing singers did a sweet old George Jones tune whose name I've forgotten -- it was a break for the rest of the band, performed as a vocal trio with just Susan's guitar.
The band also did a nice version of George Harrison's hypnotic "Isn't it a Pity?" and two Beatles songs -- the silly "I've Got a Feeling" (the opening section was dramatic and effective, took me a long time to ID the song), and the closer: Susan doing a great Joe Cocker on "With a Little Help From My Friends." Brought tears to my eyes, seriously. Brought the house down. The crowd LOVED it.
The live setting allowed the band to stretch out, and that's a good thing. But after a couple of extended numbers, it became expected that guitarist Derek Trucks was going to take the extra room to play as lightning-fast and high as he could. He can really PLAY that thing. And though the fans loved it, it got ... a little predictable. In a good way. But a couple rounds of that would have been enough.
Extended guitar-keyboard-and-drum excursions became the rule for the middle part of the show. One piece developed into a sort of Santana-like jam, ending up sounding a bit like "Soul Sacrifice." Another piece ended with a pounding, hypnotic, Cream-like guitar-and-drums duel -- this was effective, but (I hate to complain about this) it was SO LOUD I sort of went deaf for a minute and my mind wandered.
There were other, lighter moments. Each of the horn-players had a brief solo spot at the end of "Things Ain't What They Seem" -- this included the saxophonist freaking out in an Ornette Coleman-style barrage of squonks, looking like he was going to short-circuit. I THINK this was meant to be funny. I laughed a lot. And the woman trombone-player NEVER stopped moving in time to the music throughout the show. A couple of the backing singers got quite into the music, too. A long keyboard flight midway through another song convinced me that these folks would also make a pretty good progressive-rock band.
But there was so much more I wanted to hear by them -- "Made Up Mind," "Down in the Flood," "Wade in the Water," "Come See About Me," maybe a couple more songs with Mike Mattison singing lead, like "These Days are Almost Gone"? Maybe TTB have Too Much Good Stuff to choose from. Less instrumental showing-off would have made room for some of these songs, but....
Don't know if you could call this a blues band. Sounded like good, loud rock and roll to me. A huge, clear, powerful sound. At their best, this is what a great rock band should sound like. And they knew their audience well. They played for more than two hours. I didn't see anyone who went home unsatisfied.
About that audience: You could almost have posted a sign at the front door that said NO ONE UNDER 35 ADMITTED. Though there were a few young folks in the crowd, most were in their 40s, 50s, or older -- there was lots of white hair, bald heads and wrinkles. And they all got into the music -- there were lots of heads bobbing, and a few brave souls found a little room to dance down on the floor in front of the stage. For the rest of us, if you felt like dancing you had to remember that this was an old opera house with narrow seats and tight spaces between the rows of seats. If you slipped and fell behind the seat in front of you, nobody would hear you scream.... The house was only about half-full at 7:30 p.m., but by the time TTB came on the place was packed.
Openers Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers (yes, you read that right) were also good -- more country than bluesy, with a few good dramatic songs and a heckuva lead guitarist. Nicki's voice was sweet but strong, and the band gained confidence as they went. Best songs were (I'm guessing at titles) "Gimme Something Good" and "The Lie," "Jetplane" really took off, and anything with ominous heavy guitar worked really well. They were friendly and informal with the audience and weren't afraid to have fun with their performance. Vocal harmonies were solid too. Lotta potential with this band. Worth seeing all by themselves.
COMING SOON -- Detailed reviews of two books about progressive rock, Will Romano's PROG ROCK FAQ and Marc Weingarten and Tyson Cornell's collection of prog-inspired essays YES IS THE ANSWER.