Since their coming out show on April 1, 2010 (No joke!), Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks and their various groups have had a good thing going. No, they have had a great thing going.
On a December Saturday night in Boston’s historic Orpheum Theater (est. 1852), their last show of a three-night stand and their grand finale of 2019, they firmly established themselves as one of, if not the best, rhythm ‘n blues touring revues anywhere.
Of course, being the best, or not, is hardly the point. That’s all subjective, anyway. What is undeniable is their live shows are a mighty fine mash of front porch acoustic finger-picking and soaring supersonic inspiration which sometimes harken back to the dynamite days of The Allman Brothers, whose songs they cover a couple of times each show.
Make no mistake, though: These are the good old days!
The differences are the Tedeschi-Trucks Band sports a honking bonking horn section and a high-spirited vocal trio for extra texture, punch and panache. That said, Tedeschi’s own guitar work and bluesy yearning vocals and Trucks’ marvelous molten guitar artistry are the twin bullseyes of the orchestra.
The first set was exclusively electric - and I mean ELECTRIC - a mix of funky soulful originals and covers by giants like Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Eric Clapton, with whom Trucks has played. Some have touted Trucks as a worthy this generation successor to wear Clapton’s crown, so to speak.
Unlike many lead guitarists of his stature, from his attire to his behavior Trucks is no frills. He doesn’t say a word and hardly ever fully faces the audience, opting to play sideways to look at his wife (he and Tedeschi are married), communicate with and cue his band mates, some of whom are fairly new.
Some people take offense, not considering that the man is shy. He simply lets his music represent him. And why not? The phenom is playing like very few in the world can. By any means, you must see, hear and be transported by the marvelous music this gifted guitarist, his partner and their 10-piece juggernaut is generating. It’s downright upright holy!
And if that’s not enough for some critics, I don’t know what is. If you want flash, go to a burlesque show. In fact, it is so powerful I could have left after the first set, just to process what they had blasted me with.
After a lengthy break the band, in various formations from duo to full ensemble, presented an intimate sit down mostly acoustic five-song set, including some retro-country blues, featuring Tedeschi’s gutsy vocal interpretations and Trucks’ scintillating slide guitar stylings. The bass was an upright and the drummers played on small kits with brushes.
As excellent as the band is, this is Tedeschi and Trucks’ show. Her smoky sultry singing is top notch while Trucks inventive solos crescendo into the stratosphere and soar into infinity, taking the audience, the whole crowd, the whole theater with them. And, it’s uncanny. You can feel yourself, gripped by the power, surrender to the breathtaking journey, only to be gently placed back where you started.
Yes, minstrels, maestros, magicians… The couple, Tedeschi and Trucks, are truly extraordinary and - it begs mentioning - gentle, humble, unassuming spirits.
When they concluded the second set with a medley of a moody mystical twelve-minute version of The Allman Brothers’ Dreams and a truncated but blistering Whipping Post, Trucks exited with a sheepish one-second wave of his hand, as if he had disturbed us or something, instead of having blessed us with his virtuosity. His aw shucks demeanor is refreshing.
They began their two-song encore with an original, Let Me Get By, and concluded it with the sweetest most soulful version imaginable of With A Little Help From My Friends, paying tribute to their mentor and friend Leon Russell, whose gold standard arrangement with Joe Cocker on vocal, they eclipsed. Blasphemous but true.
The Tedeschi-Trucks Band does it all. Come on in their kitchen. They are cooking up a savory pot of Americana stew at its finest. Line up for a plate with all the fixings.