Fresh from the center of the musical universe, Morrison, CO, comes the latest from Phledge–
CONCERT REVIEW: Tedeschi / Trucks Band at Red Rocks, August 30, 2012
When Derek Trucks was 15 years old, I saw him open a show for blues legend BB King at the Florida Theater in Jacksonville. At the time, BB was riding the long-overdue resurgence of blues music, finally getting his due as an artist and performer, and playing with mega-acts like U2 on “ Rattle and Hum”. It was with no exaggeration that he was introduced as “ The King of the Blues”. So it was no small gesture when Riley B. invited the local kid back onstage to play a number with him, and while awash in applause afterward, cradled the wide-eyed, ballcap-wearing, barely-look-at-you teen in his arms and announced, “Just think how good he’ll be when he gets to be my age!”
The big man from Indianola, Mississippi was a freakin’ Nostradamus. It might have been last year, it might have been a couple years back, but at some point it happened, and can no longer be credibly denied: Derek Trucks is our greatest living blues guitarist.
Now, “I know what you’re thinkin’ “ ( and it’s not, “did he fire six shots, or only five?”).
You’ve heard Clapton say years back that Buddy Guy is “easily, and by far, the best living blues guitarist”. You’ve seen Jeff Beck return to touring with a vengeance, evoking memories of the trailblazing days with the Yardbirds and those two incendiary LPs with the then-unknown Scot singer Rod Stewart, “Truth” and “Beck-Ola”. You’ve seen guys like Joe Bonamassa and Warren Haynes play with speed and feeling that, for the moment, seems untouchable. But spend one night listening to Derek, either with the fine TT Band that blasted Red Rocks last night, or with the ridiculously talented Allmans lineup that also includes Haynes, and I dare you to tell me that anyone is better.
And with my favorite female blues singer, the other half of the First Coast First Family of
the Blues, Derek’s wife Susan Tedeschi, scorching the landscape with vocals that Janis, Aretha, or Billie would embrace, this is one formidable band before they even leave the house to head for the gig. Add the Allmans’ bassist Oteil Burbridge and his brother Kofi on organ, sterling horns and backup vocals, and the classic Allmans two-drummer attack, and you have a Dorsey or Ellington-like Big Band playing straight blues, jazz, and new landscapes in between. The sold-out crowd at Red Rocks began roaring early on, as Susan belted out gems from the Grammy-winning ( not that that means much; ask Mojo Nixon!) CD, “ Revelator”, and choice unexpected covers like George Harrison’s “ Isn’t It a Pity?”, the Elmore James classic “ Sky Is Crying” and the encore of the Bonnie Raitt signature “Give It Up”. Susan has a deft ear for covers; when the Allmans played Red Rocks three years ago, she joined them onstage for a great version of Clapton’s Blind Faith chestnut, “ Presence of the Lord”, and two years ago at WanneeFest she wowed with a remake of the Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett rocker, “ Comin’ Home”, another
nod to Derek’s namesake, in that Clapton played on that track with Delaney and Bonnie before the “Layla” sessions. ( As Casey Stengel used to say, “you can look it up!”).
Throughout the show, Derek modestly strolls about the stage, never addressing the crowd, intently monitoring the band’s sound. His playing is frightfully fast at times, but always seems under control, and intended purely for sonic effect, not showmanship. John Mayall used to say that slow blues are the hardest to play, because your mistakes are so evident. So when the band slowed down for twelve-bar blues, or dropped volume for jazzy wandering, Derek’s skill was most apparent. And none of the annoying guitar tech running onstage with a freshly-tuned axe; Derek never put down that red guitar, and tuned his own instrument quickly between songs, or during band solos. Cool!
This band is worth seeing just for the guitar playing and singing, and the material is clearly blues-based. But Derek is much more than a bluesman, and as noted, this band covers a lot of ground that is more jazz than rock or blues. You may have come to the show to rock out, and you may not dig everything they play, or feel like you had to hear a “banjo bass” solo before you died. But the joy of hearing an ensemble of talented musicians’ inspired playing melts away boundaries and genres, and reminds that “good music is good music”, whatever you wish to call it.
Get out and see this band. Then get back to me on that Best Guitarist thing.