It’s not often I get to go to a show with only one band on the ticket, so I was particularly excited to discover exactly one band, Gov’t Mule (AKA Mule), on my Red Butte Concert ticket last Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. These guys play classic rock right down the line with greats like Led Zeppelin and The Beatles (not so much Gerry Rafferty), but they have enough of a jam band groove to attract old Heads and old rockers. In front of a massive, groovy tapestry, and some spinning, psychedelic, purple lights, the band was greeted with a cheering roar as they blared the opening riffs of a thundering three-hour set. Cheers from an intensely tie-dyed crowd were turned up to 11 as Warren Haynes broke out his first of what would be many shredding guitar solos. And thus, we began our expedition through the deep track repertoire of Gov’t Mule.
Guitar gets top billing in Gov’t Mule’s sound. The sound guys took this to heart, because I could hardly hear anything but guitar and the faintest hint of bass drum for the entirety of the first song. Haynes is most certainly a monster on guitar (his solos were being eaten up by the crowd as fast as he could cook them up), but it was a bummer to watch the drummer, bassist, and keyboardist giving it all they’ve got with no sound to show for it. Thankfully, the sound crew realized this, and by the middle of “Lola Leave Your Light On,” the keyboards and bass finally found their way into the mix, and I could comfortably savor the drum fills.
Gov’t Mule let their music speak for itself, with hardly a word between any of their three hours of songs. The show was a machine gun of classic rock, well, rocking. Guitar solo after guitar solo, riff after riff—the crowd, who was clearly not too old to rock ‘n’ roll, dutifully had their faces melted. Gov’t Mule even played a half-time cover of “She Said She Said,” as well as an instrumental, and definitely psychedelic cover of “Norwegian Wood” to stoke the fire. After the sun went down, things got way tripper, with drugged-up sound effects on the guitar and bass, longer and more jam-driven songs, and massive light and fog effects. Even so, crowd was surprisingly sober, with only a faint whiff of cannabis and barely two handfuls of glow sticks catapulting through the air. (The Umphrey’s McGee show last month was a different story.)
With multicolored fog seeping into every nook and cranny, Gov’t Mule played arguably their most popular song, “Thorazine Shuffle.” At last the rest of band stole the spotlight from Haynes and took solos of their own. With the crowd still going wild in a “it’s a school-night way,” Gov’t Mule closed the evening off with a speedy, solo heavy rendition of “Soulshine.” In all, Gov’t Mule proved that they can still rock the hell out of the night and sent us all home humming bass lines and guitar solos.
See all of our music coverage here.