Monday, June 29, 2009

Concert Review: The Derek Trucks Band - Pantages Theatre, Winnipeg, MB, 6/23/09

The last time the virtuoso guitarist and his band (formed in 1994) played Winnipeg, it was in a smaller venue with rush seating. I lined up for over an hour outside but I ended right at the front of the stage, in the centre, close enough to grab a set list at the end of the show. This time, however, the band performed in one of nicer places in town, the Pantages Theatre, a larger venue with assigned seats.

With no introduction, the unassuming baby-faced, pony-tailed Derek Trucks (June 8, 1979) strolled on stage, and began to fiddle with his red Gibson SG guitar, not stopping to survey the audience who were hooting and hollering with great anticipation. It wasn't until the third number that he spoke into a microphone and introduced the band members, doing so by simply mentioning their names and instruments, without hyperbole. For the most part, Trucks stood in one place, near the back, beside the drummer, and simply let his fingers do the talking.

At a Derek Trucks Band show, you're going to hear a variety of guitar playing, from subtle, subdued notes to fast and fiery intensity that borders on shredding and pretty much promises to erupt in flames.

Apart from a few different blues styles, sometimes performed with a slide, they also performed a tune with a sitar-inspired opening played on guitar, "I Know," from the new album, 2009s Already Free. It was among four tracks performed from the new album. I was really hoping to hear Indian flavored "Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni," from the 2006 album Songlines but it wasn't played. It's one of his most recognizable songs and possibly the most exotic.

The highlight of the evening for me was "My Favorite Things," the well-known Rodgers and Hammerstein song from the film The Sound of Music. It began quietly, in a jazz style, and evolved into a stunning, sublime, 20-minute long jam, played in homage to jazz legend saxophonist John Coltrane, who also recorded the tune in a 1960 album of the same title. That performance alone was worth the price of admission and it had me wanting to hear more of Trucks perform jazz. Fortunately, he actually recorded a couple of jazz tracks on the 2008 McCoy Tyner album Guitars.

The band members were tight, with some of them having been around since the groups's beginning, which now spans half of Trucks' 30 years of age. Every step of the way, the band members kept up with Trucks’ creativity and flawless playing. Song after song features different sounds, with the group not willing to take it easy by settling into a single style. Trucks utilized just a few guitars, never posing or doing anything approximating showing off for the audience, save for his superlative playing. He plays without a pick and has the fortunate distinction of having his own sound, something cherished by all world-class guitar players, but possessed by so very few.

About half of the songs performed featured the band's brilliant blues-soul vocalist and contributing songwriter, Mike Mattison, who sports an unmistakable afro and looks not unlike a young Mohammed Ali. Mattison may not look like he's much past his twenties, but he sings like he's channeling great singers of the past and has his own band in Scrapomatic.

At the end of the show, the lead guitarist from the Weber Brothers, Sam Weber, the backing band for the opening act, Romi Mayes,was invited on stage to perform the encore number, "Get Out Of My Life Woman."

Trucks is one half of the lead guitar team in the Allman Brothers, the veteran southern rock band. Both he and guitarist Warren Haynes were cited as being among the top 100 guitarists in the world by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2003.

If you think the blues is the domain of septuagenarians, you really must take in a show by this exciting band. They literally tore the roof off of the building.

Set List:
Get What You Deserve
I Know
I Done Got Over
So Close, So Far Away
Down Don't Bother Me
Meet Me at the Bottom
I'll Find My Way
This Sky
Leaving Trunk
Sweet Inspiration
My Favourite Things
Key to the Highway
Get Out My Life Woman

My rating for this show is 5/5.

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