Music NewsGov't Mule's Stellar Bluesy Southern Rock Performance at the Raleigh Amphitheater
By: Sheryl Bryant
Photography by Gabriel Nelson
Mother Nature was on her best behavior last night for the Dr. John/Govt. Mule concert. The sun was shining, not sweltering, and a cool breeze was blowing. This contributed to a wonderful atmosphere for what turned out to be a highly satisfying musical experience.
Opening the concert was Mac Rebbenack, Jr, fondly known as Dr. John or "The night tripper." Rebbenack's Lower 911 Band is a six-piece ensemble which features horns as well as his signature keyboards. The band combines both a funky soul and a rock and roll sound. Dr. John and crew's 12 song set included the 1976 hit "Right Place Wrong Time." Dr. John, a master craftsman on piano, though slowing down a little, is still vital. On the happy tune "Let the Good Times Roll" he showed us his versatility by playing a mean mini-guitar solo. Particularly notable songs from the set included "Walk on Guilded Splinters", as well as "Locked Down". "Locked Down" is a clever song about losing hope, doing dope, the KKK and the CIA. This controversial song turned a bunch of heads. The last three songs were a gumbo of creole-soaked blues and cajun jazz that we all thoroughly enjoyed. It was good to see a "Big Easy" legend and his hand-picked band.
Govt. Mule’s Warren Haynes walked out on the stage just before the sun set, and the crowd gave the Asheville native a tremendously warm welcome. I am proud to boast that Warren Haynes is a native NC brother, and do so often. His guitar prowess is amazing and his vocals are astounding. I believe he is a lyrical genius as well.
After the opening solo, drummer Matt Abts, bass guitarist Allen Woody and keyboardist Danny Louis strolled out amidst a lovely Raleigh skyline of pink and orange.
Every bluesy southern rock song performed by Gov’t Mule was great. The slinky blues funk of “Trying Not to Fall” is clearly influenced by Haynes’ soul mates, the Allman Brothers. The lyrical and melodical masterpiece “Endless Paradise” was darn near perfect and showcased Haynes’ gorgeous vocals. The James Gang styled rock and roll of “Bad Little Doggie” also swept the crowd off its feet . Danny Louis’ keyboards were in rare form on one of the jam band’s signature crowd favorites, “Thorazine Shuffle”.
A medley of hits ensued that included “Effigy” and the Hendrix’ classic “Hey Joe”. During this medley, Matt Abts showcased brilliant drumming. Abts, a Grammy winning drummer and world class musician was stunning. His sticks sounded like a high powered semi-automatic weapon or a well tuned Harley Davidson. Matt Abts is artistic precision at its height and the band as a whole was tight as a tick.
Another memorable part of the concert was when Gov’t Mule invited the Lower 911 back onstage for a jam session. Derek Huston sounded super on the sax. John Fohl was fantastic on guitar and renowned keyboardist John Cleary gave an exceptional performance. But it was the lone female and trombonist for the Lower 911, Sarah Morrow, who blew the hats off the crowd with her sultry command of the instrument.
Honorable mention for the night goes to the super heavy “Streamline Woman”, a Zeppelin like rocker with the following foreboding lyrics:
“Saw you in the starlight,
Gave my heart a stir,
Naked in the moonlight,
Made me shimmer for sure”.
Rounding out the show was Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and the Warren Haynes penned “Soulshine”. Mule then exploded with an encore that I sadly had to miss. 7:30 comes early for this old girl. Luckily for me, I could still clearly hear Warren Haynes' screaming guitar as I was heading up the hill to the car.
This was my first concert at the Raleigh Amphitheater and I have to say I was quite impressed. The staff working the theater is courteous and helpful. I like both the seating arrangement and stage location, and I loved the Cree shimmer wall on the face of the Raleigh Convention Center. The acoustics were also very good. Once the volume was cranked, neither the Amtrak rolling into the station on Cabarrus nor the fire engine sirens on Dawson Street could spoil the vocal power and guitar mastery of Warren Haynes and Govt. Mule.
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