Concert Review- Tedeschi-Trucks Band, the Florida Theatre, Jacksonville, FL 1/16/15
” Back in the 1970s, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth”, as Patterson Hood says, a scrawny local kid with a ballcap visored way down his forehead stood boldly on the Florida Theatre stage as the opening act for B.B. King, wailing on slide guitar as if he belonged there. The King of the Blues later invited the kid to join him onstage, and hugged him afterward, telling the crowd: ” Imagine how good he’ll be when he gets to my age! ”
But it all seemed too much for any kid to live up to. Born on the First Coast into a musical heritage as the nephew of founding Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, named after Eric Clapton’s alter ego with soulmate Duane Allman on arguably the greatest blues-rock album ever , cast as a prodigy on slide before he left high school…how could anyone not be crushed or sucked in by the weight of all this? By continuing to grow, yet staying true to his roots, Derek Trucks went beyond the hype, earned his peers’ respect, and now leads the best touring band in the U.S. with his powerhouse blueswailing wife Susan Tedeschi. As the First Family of the Blues, they returned to the Florida Theatre on the heels of wildly successful tours, award-winning records, and critical acclaim. The locals welcomed them home with roaring approval throughout their pulsating two hour set.
Derek’s growth from sideman to bandleader has reflected his broad musical tastes, and the full ensemble band allows him to stretch in many directions. Beginning with the twin-drum lineup trademarked by the Allmans, the current TTB features keys, bass, two backup singers, and a three-piece horn section. Throw in Susan’s own formidable chops on guitar, and you have a huge sound base with a wide variety of ingredients. Derek’s willingness to let the band take solos and leads throughout the show kept things cooking, whether it was Kofi Burbridge on keys and flute, Kebbi Williams on sax, or the always scintillating Mike Mattison on vocals.
Beginning with ” Are You Ready/Made Up Mind “, the band rolled through a veritable Best Of selections from their three CDs, spiced with a few covers, including Deadrick Malone’s ” I Pity the Fool “. Fans cheered wildly as favorites ” Do I Look Worried? “, ” Midnight Up In Harlem “, and ” Idlewind ” ( with a tasty solo by Burbridge on flute) paced the set, culminating in a rousing ” Bound For Glory “. With each song, another member of the band would be featured as soloist, often extending into short jams and interplays that no doubt serve to keep the material fresh through the many nights onstage. Susan was in fine, strong voice, and seemed to be playing notably better, often trading leads with Derek before he took off into his own stringed stratosphere. The band’s sound ventured into jazz at times, veered back toward R and B, and even swung around to traditional acoustic blues.
Through the years, Derek’s onstage demeanor has changed little. The tours alongside Eric Clapton, the years next to Warren Haynes as an Allman Brother, and the side projects with roots musicians like JJ Grey have kept Derek humble and seemingly unaffected by his great success. True to form, he said nothing onstage and merely waved to the crowd at the close of the set. Paying tribute to his namesake, Derek and Susan often include a Clapton cover in their set, from Bobby Whitlock’s Dominoes rocker ” Anyday ” all the way back to Blind Faith and ” Presence of the Lord ” during the Allmans’ show at Wanee years back. This night, they returned to ” Layla” with another Clapton/Whitlock tune, ” Keep On Growin’ “, as the encore of choice, to thunderous applause from the aging boomer crowd, many of whom likely have vinyl ” Laylas ” gathering dust in boxes in the garage.
Looking back to Riley B. King’s prognostication, it didn’t take a bluesman’s lifetime for Derek Trucks to mature into a musician’s musician and a artist of commensurate stature to the King himself. All hail the new King and Queen of Blues Rock!