Midnight up in Morrison– Tedeschi/Trucks Band, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, JJ Grey and Mofro

Concert Review– Tedeschi/Trucks Band- Red Rocks, Morrison, CO 6/15/13

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You’ll just have to take my word that’s Susan and Derek. Please ask the boss to buy me better seats! The background is no banner; those are real rocks!

The First Family of the Blues brought their traveling road show back to the nation’s finest outdoor concert venue on Saturday night, still rolling from the momentum of Grammy awards, fawning press accolades, and sellout crowds generated by 2011’s ” Revelator” and last year’s live release ” Everybody’s Talkin’ “. This time, the band brought along their Northeast Florida homeboy JJ Grey with his swamp funk band Mofro and the former blues artist craving mass appeal Grace Potter in her ” sparkly white bathrobe ” (her words, not mine) for six solid hours of inspired funk, rock, blues and jazz that stoked a packed house eager to start the summer season in style. With the Phillies’ pitching staff surrendering basehits like batting practice, our arrival from Coors Field at the venerable Red Rocks was well into JJ Grey’s set, but we could hear the roaring approval of the crowd from the parking lot, where scalpers and failed Craigslist ticketshoppers pleaded in vain for spare ducats. From his backwoods hideout on the far westside of Jacksonville, JJ Grey has managed to craft his own blend of country, folk, rock, and funky blues into a style all his own, informed by a childhood on the rivers and swamps of Cracker Florida and a strong environmental conscience. JJ has become a regular on the summer festival scene and his New Year’s stands at the Freebird in Jax Beach are local legends, but his roots chops have also supported gigs like his leading of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. Promise to catch your full set next time, JJ !

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Grace Potter on stage and on the big screen, shortly before going Sharon Stone on us!

When Grace Potter appeared on the national scene some ten years ago, she lead a blues-based band playing originals and covers in a humble, unassuming style that made one think she’d slowly grow into a respected artist with a modest following. Her first shows at the Florida Theatre and  Springing the Blues were well received, but when she returned two years ago it was as if she’d fallen under a Svengali’s spell that lead her to dress like Tina Turner, dance like Madonna, and shriek like Yoko Ono. Her songs now tend toward arena anthems and bombastic hard rock, and her bookings and sales would indicate the public embraces her new persona. The set at Red Rocks had plenty of the light-show effects and screaming vocals atop searing guitars, but the best moments were when she dropped the rock-star image and showcased her voice within a comfortable register. The set’s highlight was when the band went acoustic and gathered around Grace for a mini-break that included Jerry Garcia’s Grateful Dead classic, ” Friend of the Devil “, though some would argue for the moment when Grace sat on the drum riser to take off her heels, with that white robe revealing miles of leg and evoking Sharon Stone in ” Basic Instinct”. Gabba Gabba Hey! And Grace pulled many of the aging rockers out of their seats with the band’s encore of the Black Sabbath anthem ” War Pigs “. As Grace said early on, ” we like to mix it up a little “, and she had something for everyone on this night.

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Susan and Derek on the big screen well after midnight

Susan Tedeschi had a successful career as a blues singer and guitarist before her marriage to Derek Trucks, nephew of long-time Allman Brothers drummer Butch and namesake of the Clapton monicker from Eric’s brief halcyon days with Duane ” Skydog ” Allman. The slide guitar prodigy was playing onstage with BB King at age 15, and soon moved into the Allmans lineup alongside Warren Haynes in what now stands as the most potent blues/rock band in America when Derek, Warren, and Gregg Allman’s  schedules permit touring together. After their marriage, Derek and Susan continued separate touring and recording, with occasional appearances together, such as the holiday concerts with family and friends at the Florida Theatre. Many observers concluded that Derek’s desire to explore jazz and big-band sounds would never mesh with Susan’s blues roots , but they managed to find common ground without compromising their talents and instincts on         ” Revelator “, and have toured relentlessly since. Their band includes keyboards, three horn players, and two backup singers, and much of the material begins with blues or rock and expands into jazzy improvisation. Saturday’s set included ” Don’t Let Me Slide ” and    ” Midnight Up In Harlem ” from ” Revelator “, and several new tunes from the next CD, scheduled for release on August 27. Typically, they threw in several well-chosen covers that turned out to be highlights of the evening, with Elmore James’  ” The Sky Is Crying “, and Bobby Whitlock’s Dominoes rocker, ” Anyday ” showcasing Susan’s powerfully expressive vocals and Derek’s controlled fret frenzies. The encore brought another tasty treat, with Grace returning ( this time in an impossibly short skirt that barely covered her honkytonk badonkadonk ) to trade verses with Susan on John Prine’s  ” Angel From Montgomery “.

By this time it was well past midnight. The natural mountain amphitheater was lashed by winds that were chilling even hardy fans and playing havoc with equipment. Susan  politely thanked everyone for staying through the six-hour musical marathon, and we trudged down the hill to the parking lot to resume lives delightfully interrupted by the Rock Show.

—Your Mile High correspondent, Nanker Phledge

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