Tedeschi Trucks Band / Photo: Clayton Taylor Photography
A stifling heat, the product of a hot and humid day without wind, seemed to perch itself right over the middle of the venue.
But that didn’t stop about 5,000 fans from coming out to see the second half of the equation. The clarion call of electric guitar permeated everything, starting promptly at 7 p.m. with the band Hot Tuna and rarely taking a break until the Tedeschi Trucks Band walked off the stage at 10:47 p.m.
Next at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion
Who: Lady Antebellum’s “You Look Good” World Tour
When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 5
Where: Arkansas Music Pavilion, Rogers
Cost: Starting at $37.60 plus fees
Tickets: 479-443-5600 or visit arkansasmusicpavilion.com for information.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band, led by husband-and-wife blues players Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, is a big, beautiful, diverse thing. All told, there’s a lead vocalist and guitarist (Tedeschi), a lead guitarist (Trucks), two full drum kits, a piano, bass, trombone, trumpet, saxophone, occasional acoustic guitar and as many as three backing vocalists, depending on the arrangement.
And yet guitar – specifically, guitar solos – ruled the day. There was very little in the way of backdrop, and lights swirled on the tent structure above the band. It was just a big band on a big stage playing guitar-driven, blues-oriented music.
Typically, the driving guitar came courtesy of Derek Trucks, a longtime prodigy who played in the Allman Brothers Band for more a decade. He’s consistently ranked among the world’s best players, and he soared through slide guitar riffs at every opportunity. Each song had a break, a “solo goes here” section, and they turned him loose.
But, thankfully, and if only for the sake of variety, the solos weren’t confined to him. Tedeschi and Trucks invited members of both opening acts onto the stage at various points. Jorma Kaukonen of Hot Tuna helped with the Elmore James standard “The Sky is Crying.” Oliver Wood of The Wood Brothers loaned his services for “Leaving Trunk” and “Sweet Virginia,” the latter of the two a Rolling Stones cover. But it was Tedeschi, the leader of her own blues band before joining forces with her husband, who took the lead on “The Sky is Crying.” There’s a reason she found her own fame – she’s a first-rate player, too.
The Wood Brothers / Photo: Clayton Taylor Photography
On any jam-heavy night, the focus on the set list sharpens. Tuesday night’s set featured about a dozen songs and ran for almost 90 minutes. With so few songs, and so few opportunities to hear a favorite, the list can be very right or just as wrong. Sadly, I didn’t get to hear any of the songs I hoped the band would play. I will credit the band for turning over a new list of songs for the show in Rogers. Many acts play the same list every night, but that’s not the Tedeschi Trucks way. On a night of improvisational jams, there’s no script to be followed.
I’m sure many people did hear their songs, and the show was certainly a homage to the jam crowd. I didn’t know the Tedeschi Trucks Band was a Grateful Dead fan-admired band, but the t-shirts and tattoos (and average age) of the audience confirmed their approval. There were a few Hot Tuna shirts in the crowd, too. If you admired the Dead, like many of the audience members did, you probably also liked Hot Tuna, which formed in 1969 as a side project of Jefferson Airplane members.
The Wood Brothers’ intervening set provided a blast of energy in the middle of the proceedings. The three-piece plays Americana-laded blues (or maybe blues-laden Americana?) and does so with enthusiasm. I’m not sure there’s a way to get tickets to either of their performances next month when they return for the Fayetteville Roots Festival, as the Thursday and Friday schedule is sold out. But if you’re lucky enough to have bought tickets or know of a way to get your hands on some, you’re going to be in for a treat. Go see them if you can.
And, go see Tedeschi Trucks if you’re given the opportunity, too. The band had moments of bliss last night – searing guitar, vocal harmonies between Tedeschi and backing/occasional lead vocalist Mike Mattison and a big, brassy backing band. They also had moments where I wished they would push forward. That kind of up and down is to be expected from a night created on the fly. But their current “Wheels of Soul” tour is a great showcase of a few great guitarists, and that kind of playing will hover in your mind for a while.