Red Butte favorites Trucks Band rolled into town on Sunday for the last night of their Wheels of Soul tour; they did not disappoint.
The sold out crowd were presented with almost four hours of quality live music, between the three acts. The north Mississippi Allstars and Los Lobos were billed as “rock ‘n soul” collaborators, and it truly was an evening of collaboration. Meaningful collaboration is, to some extent, dependent on mutual appreciation and the ability to place ego to one side, and, in that spirit, one of the outstanding themes of the evening was the complete lack of ego on the stage.
The North Mississippi Allstars kicked things off for a well received 40-minute set, with Luther Dickinson on guitar and vocals clearly enjoying himself. There were guest appearances during the set from Tedeschi Trucks backup singer Alecia Chakour, David Hidalgo from Los Lobos and Derek Trucks himself, joining in on a 12-bar blues that segued into Muddy Waters’ “Got My Mojo Working.”
Then Los Lobos sauntered on stage fresh from their Saturday show at the State Room and proceeded to be brilliant. Opening with Evangeline and moving onto “Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes,” before being joined by the aforementioned Luther Dickinson for “Don’t Worry Baby.” You’re at an excellent show when you can see many people backstage watching the show and dancing during the opener.
Alecia Chakour reappeared to sing on a Steve Winwood cover, before Susan Tedeschi bounded on stage to give a stellar performance of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s going on?” Trucks reappeared for the next number, before the finale of “La Bamba” which also included Susan Tedeschi who, in the spirit of collaboration, was content to sing backup, with her own backup singers, for her opening act.
Then, the Tedeschi Trucks Band began their almost two-hour set with an a cappella number from the backup singers, before the band let rip with “Anyhow” and “Midnight in Harlem.“ Highlights from the set were the moments of collaboration. César Rosas from Los Lobos joined in for the straight up blues Hendrix number “The Sky Is Crying,” with Tedeschi pulling off an outrageous solo to remind us that her guitar is not just there for show. David Hidalgo was brought back out for “Learning To Live Together,” with he and Derek trading back and forth on the solos.
After a stellar performance of “Had To Cry Today,” a Blind Faith cover and the second song performed during the evening written by the perennially under-appreciated Steve Winwood, the main set closed with “Let Me Get By,” the title track of their Tedeschi Trucks’ latest album. The encore comprised of a soul version of James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” and a brilliant cover of “Let’s Go Get Stoned” from Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen album – they absolutely knocked the bollocks off it!
Derek Trucks is undoubtedly a world-class guitar player, and is recognized as such by his peers and critics. But what sets him apart from the few contemporary blues guitar players who are young and can play at his level, such as Joe Bonamassa and Gary Clark Jr, is that Trucks has paired himself, professionally and personally (they are married), with a truly exceptional vocalist in Susan Tedeschi.
When Derek Trucks lets loose with his Gibson SG guitar, it is a sound that few on the planet can replicate. It’s the same story when Susan Tedeschi opens her mouth to sing. When you see phenomenal guitar players who sing, such Bonamassa and Clark Jr, the show can often be disappointing to some degree as the incredible guitar playing writes checks that limited vocal ability simply can’t cash. There are exceptions of course, such as Buddy Guy whose vocals were astonishing at Red Butte earlier this summer; but the combination of Susan’s vocals and Derek’s guitar work is absolutely outstanding.
In summary, this was one of the best shows in terms of quality and, less importantly, value for money at Red Butte this summer. I’m sure most of those lucky enough to attend are hoping for a repeat performance in 2017.