Concert review: Gov't Mule & Cold War Kids at Artscape
Two songs into Gov't Mule's set at last night's Artscape, bassist Jorgen Carlsson's amp started crackling.
The four-piece paused for a minute while the roadies swapped it out, and then resumed the song, "Steppin' Lightly."
"We're not going to let a little technical difficulty stand in the way of a good time this evening," front man Warren Haynes said.
What followed was just what you'd expect from the acclaimed jammers -- more than an hour and a half of thick riffs, searing solos and Southern rock songs. In short, it was good time music from a bunch of good ol' boys ...
Haynes' big paws and big frame can make any guitar seem half its normal size. His singing voice is a grizzled growl which barrels out of his (sizable) gut. He's been all over the jam scene, from the Allman Brothers to The Dead, and knows how to pair the right solo with the right song. Nearly every tune last night had a guitar solo at some point, but none of it seemed too gratuitous or repetitive -- a rare feat in their genre.
The 12-song show had a handful of tracks from the band's most recent album, "By a Thread": Carlsson kicked off "Broke Down on the Brazos" with a snarly bass line; Haynes strapped on a 12-string electric for "Railroad Boy."
Though Gov't Mule has more than enough original material, the band's performances usually have a few cover tunes here and there. Last night, they slipped two Led Zeppelin tracks, "D'Yer Maker" and "Whole Lotta Love," in the middle of Gov't Mule songs. Haynes also spliced "Beautifully Broken" with a downbeat cover of Prince's "When Doves Cry."
Drummer Matt Abts was riding the cowbell and everybody traded solos for the '70s stoner jam "Thorazine Shuffle," a highpoint of the night. The set ended with the inevitable "Soulshine," Gov't Mule's feelgood anthem.
Since no Gov't Mule concert is complete without at least one special guest, Washington saxophonist Ron Holloway sat in on a fiery rendition of Robert Johnson's "32-20 Blues" and singer Jackie Greene, who had performed earlier in the day, joined the band for an encore of the Grateful Dead's "Sugaree." Holloway, Greene and Gov't Mule closed out the satisfying show a hair past 10 p.m.
An hour before Gov't Mule went on, California indie rockers Cold War Kids got things warmed up on the Wachovia stage with some heavy, plodding beats. Singer Nathan Willett's voice, which can border on unremarkable on the band's albums, was much more energized in person.
Willett attacked his songs with a detached determination, and the other three players had the smoldering grooves on lock. Willett banged on a keyboard during "Hang Me Out to Dry," a song that was almost too slow to dance to. Almost. Their 40-minute, 10-song set ended with the poignant "We Used to Vacation."(At top, AP photo of Gov't Mule front man Warren Haynes. Bottom, photo of Cold War Kids by Mike Hallock.)