Real music lovers can find the melody in everything. From the park to the concert hall, our friend Nelson Brill is always on the hunt for great sound. In this blog, Nelson joins a fully-vaxxed audience to enjoy a much missed live music concert, with the Tedeshi Trucks Band. He also recommends how to relive this same vibrant experience in the comfort of your own home.
A BUCKET OF ROCK N’ ROLL JOY: TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND IN CONCERT AND NEW LIVE RECORDINGS TO SAVOR
By Nelson Brill | DECEMBER 5, 2021
On November 30th, the Tedeschi Trucks Band (“TTB”) opened a four-night stand at the legendary Orpheum Theatre in Boston and from the first note, there was glee and celebration in the return of live music in all its glory.
The TTB sustained a creative musical statement that teemed with bluster, soul and communal spirit with its adoring (fully vaxxed!) capacity audience. The TTB is composed of Susan Tedeschi on guitar and lead vocals, Derek Trucks on guitar, Gabe Dixon on keyboards and vocals, Brandon Boone on bass, Tyler “Falcon” Greenwell and Isaac Eady on drums, Elizabeth Lea on trombone, Kebbi Williams on saxophone and Ephraim Owens on trumpet – all backed by the stellar vocal cast of Mike Mattison, Mark Rivers, and Alecia Chakour. There is a special bond between these players, palpable in every song they explore. Its an easy-going democratic companionship where, without fuss, lime-light or artificial gestures, each member of the band gets their chance to shine within the spirited collective.
This easy-going spirit and companionship was fully on display at TTB’s Orpheum opening night concert, packed with special musical treats. The concert opened with the slow-boogie optimism of the Beatles’ “I’ve Got A Feeling!” with Mattison leading the vocal charge with his steadfast presence, augmenting Tedeschi’s luminous calls with his bluesy husk (with the audience joining in on Tedeschi’s urgent choruses of “Oh Yeah!”). From his rear stage position, Mattison pelted his deep vocal swagger (and falsetto leaps) on his pulsating original “Life Is Crazy” and crowned Taj Mahal’s charging “Everybody’s Got To Change Sometime” with powerful vocal ardor and deep bluesy pounce.
The gospel soar and audacious pulse of TTB’s “Bound For Glory” and their propulsive “Made Up Mind” brought out the splendor of Rivers and Chakour’s vocals. Each took a solo in which they displayed their individual styles by utilizing their fluid vocal ranges and their great feel for gospel, gliding soulfulness – holding the audience transfixed with their expressive force.
Tedeschi’s vocals too were as strong as ever: smoothly gliding to her highest calls (with a bit of husk up top to emphasize her high calls and blues passion). The quality of her voice always nailed the essence of the songs she sung. This included a riveting and quiet version of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery”; a radiant version of Neil Young’s “Helpless”; a breezy romp on The Four Tops’ “Lov’in You Is Sweeter Than Ever” and a deep bluesy plunge into her chestnut, “Just Won’t Burn” – a slow blues fireball from Tedeschi’s youth when she would play with her power trio to small gatherings in Boston at lunch time or grace Boston’s intimate clubs with her questing blues.
Tedeschi has found a life-long creative partner in Trucks, and together, backed by their concussive drum partners and Boone’s ever-creative bass, they have become a legendary force. The sound at the Orpheum this evening was fantastic (kudos to the sound team!) with every layer of color from Tedeschi and Trucks’ searing guitar dialog captured punctual and distinct, in nice sonic balance with the rest of the band. The second set opened with barn-burning energy from Trucks on his electric guitar, grabbing hold of TTB’s blistering “Anyhow” with urgent high spills and amplified trills (punctuated with blasts from the TTB shining horn section). Trucks continued his carefree abandon on a spikey-sweet version of Derek and the Dominos’ “Why Does Love Have To Be So Sad” where he joined Tedeschi and the band in a locomotive romp that melded into a tranquil plateau of lilting colors, resonant guitar string bends and soft chord holds.
This quiet, slow-evolving play also highlighted Trucks’ special moments on stage with his rhythm section and Dixon’s twinkling keyboards, experimenting on John Coltrane’s “Afro Blue”. On this adventure, Trucks moved from sitar-drenched effects to deliberately loosening his guitar strings and letting them roar in oblique resonant drops and amplified holds. Tedeschi and the full band then joined Trucks for a pressurized version of Bobby Blue Bland’s “That Did It”, in which Tedeschi took command with her expressive guitar attack, weaving with Trucks a tapestry of hot stinging bent notes and pummeling strums. All of this heat and drama concluded with a TTB romp on the upbeat Coasters’ song, “Let’s Get Stoned”. The band danced and swayed on all cylinders with the crowd roaring their approval – the epitome of rock n’ roll joy.
To relish a vibrant slice of the TTB in live performance, grab a copy of their superb new live recording re-imagining the legendary Derek & The Dominos‘ Layla. The TTB’s Layla Revisited (Live At Lockn’) [Fantasy Records; www.tedeschitrucksband.com] captures a performance of TTB at the LOCKN’ Music Festival in Arlington, VA. in August, 2019 with the band joined by inspired guests – guitarists and vocalists Trey Anastasio and Doyle Bramhall II – with JJ Johnson joining Greenwell on drums.
The recording is reference audiophile quality, delivering the natural images of each player in the TTB on a wide and layered deep soundstage, with each player’s image natural, dynamic and tactile in the airy venue.
My reference system, anchored by Ensemble Audio Dirondo CD Player [www.ensembleexperience.com] j Goldmund Telos 590 Next Gen. II Integrated Amplifier [www.goldmund.com) Seidenton loudspeakers (www.seidenton.ch) and cabling by Nordost (www.nordost.com) was a glorious conduit, inviting me into this live performance with aplomb. The Dirondo’s special trait as a CD player with excellent “continuousness” (that rare quality of never a break or sputter in its natural flow of music), partnered with the Goldmund Telos 590 integrated ampifier, (with its ability to portray music with great dynamic headroom and naturalness), involved me immediately in the whorl and roughhouse of TTB’s spirited Layla Revisited live performance.
In the first set of Layla Revisited, The TTB are off to the races with blistering versions of “Keep On Growing” (with each guitarist getting the opportunity to improvise their bold and propulsive statements) and “Nobody Knows When You’re Down And Out”, a searing blues highlight. “Anyday” is another toe-tapping and rumbling highlight, building from Mattison’s vocal strides and Tedeschi’s buoyant guitar and vocals. The second set takes the energy even higher with a striding “Key To The Highway” to a fiery “Little Wing” (with layered background singers entwined with tons of bold guitar blasts). The title track gallops forward with pell-mell guitar solos and leaping creativity from all members of the band. Just as on the original, “Layla” is followed by the quiet moment of “Thorn Tree In The Garden,” re-imagined here in a studio setting with Tedeschi and Trucks in supple acoustic rapport.
Inspired by TTB’s galvanizing Orpheum concert and their spectacular Layla Revisited recording, I recommend for your listening pleasure one other “best-of-the-year” live recording mining the rock n’ roll and blues of legendary songwriter Peter Green and the music of Fleetwood Mac.
On February 25, 2020, just days before the first COVID cases were discovered in the UK, a concert took place at the legendary Palladium in London, organized by Mick Fleetwood and friends in celebration of Green and his music. We now are gifted with Mick Fleetwood & Friends Celebrate The Music of Peter Green [BMG; www.BMG.com], another stellar live recording from start to finish.
The “house band” for this concert was tight-knit and glorious, most notably guitarist and singer Jonny Lang and guitarist Rick Vito. Their guitars teem with blues heat and rapid-fire twists in many highlighted moments on this live recording, propelled by the robust drums of Mick Fleetwood and Zac Starkey and the pungent bass of David Bronze. This band’s kinetic versions of “Homework”, “Sandy Mary” and “Need Your Love So Bad” are dazzling power blues with great freewheeling and funky glory.
The guests that appear with this radiant band at this Mick Fleetwood And Friends concert are clearly inspired to be on stage to salute Green: John Mayall with his swaying, pulsating Otis Rush “All Your Love”; Billy Gibbons torching “Doctor Brown” with his husky vocals and guitar swagger; Steven Tyler stinging “Rattlesnake Shake” with his funky vocal power and Pete Townshend (“Are we plugged in lads?”) cavorting on Jeremy Spenser’s “Station Man” with spirited vocal calls and reverberant blasts from his electric guitar- filling the airy hall with swathes of radiant heat.
Act II of this concert brings other fresh and dynamic treats. David Gilmour delivers his deep, soulful guitar meditation on the slow blues of “Oh Well, Part 2” and joins Tyler and Gibbons on a raucous rock n’ roll party on “Oh Well, Part 1”. Bill Wyman and Jeremy Spenser glitter on a deep Delta version of Elmore James’ “The Sky Is Crying” with Spenser’s guitar sly and assured in all its tactile heat. Following these delectable treats are propulsive versions of Elmore James’ “I Can’t Hold Out” and Green’s feisty “Green Manalishi” – delivered in thunderous fashion with Gibbins’ craggy vocals and Kirk Hammett’s ricochets of electric guitar (utilizing Green’s original guitar for this earthshaking performance). The curtain closes on this spectacular concert with a joyous “Shake Your Money Maker”from the entire crew that is swinging and irresistibly ebullient – another crackling rock n’ roll catharsis for our times.
You can read more of Nelson’s concert reviews at www.bostonconcertreviews.com.