Tedeschi Trucks Band (photo: Joshua Huver)
Just before returning to Susan Tedeschi’s old stomping grounds for a three-night run of Thanksgiving shows in Boston, the Tedeschi Trucks Band hosted a two-night engagement at The Fox in Oakland. True to form in the blues tradition, the evening was full of heartfelt tributes, reimagined covers and loads of original soul.
The band is a reimagined conglomeration of two contemporary blues guitar virtuosos. Tedeschi has been fronting her own Grammy-nominated band since the mid-’90s, even opening for the Rolling Stones’ 2003 tour. In 2001 she married slide guitar virtuoso Derek Trucks of the legendary Allman Brothers Band legacy, and by 2010 the pair announced the birth of their 11-piece revivalist blues band.
In addition to the band’s two namesake members, the Tedeschi Trucks Band includes keyboardist/flautist Kofi Burbridge, bassist Tim Lefebvre, drummers Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson, vocalists Mike Mattison, Mark Rivers and Alecia Chakour as well as Kebbi Williams on saxophone, Ephraim Owens on trumpet and Elizabeth Lea on trombone.
People took note of their collaboration, and their 2011 debut album won a Grammy Award. In September 2016, they recorded Live From The Fox Oakland. The Grammy-nominated album was released in March of this year, and fans have been eagerly awaiting the band’s return ever since.
On Friday, the first night of the two-night run, Tedeschi Trucks Band brought along local favorite Todd Snider and his band Hard Working Americans to warm up the crowd, but on Saturday night, the band billed a special two set, and sold out, evening.
From the opening notes of “Laugh About It,” it was clear that this was a band whose technically and seriously soulful moments of genius come from the joy that these musicians find in and around one another as much as it comes from their dedication to craft.
The first set was split pretty evenly between TTB originals from their two most recent studio discs, 2013’s Made Up My Mind and 2016’s Let Me Get By, and a handful of covers: one track from Trucks’ solo band, “Don’t Miss Me,” a John Prine cover (“Angel From Montgomery”) that medley-ed into the Jerry Garcia classic “Sugaree”and a poignant performance of Delaney & Bonnie‘s 1972 classic “Comin’ Home” featuring Eric Clapton that really turned up the heat on stage.
For Prine’s “Angel,” the musicians exited the stage leaving Tedeschi, with one drummer, and a little bass line from Lefebvre. One by one, the musicians filtered back into place beginning with Burbridge’s truly captivating flute solo. By the time they slid into “Home,” a blustery blues tune, it was clear that every person on that stage was a master of their instrument(s). They kept the energy high into “Idle Wind,” an Allman legacy tune with a huge dueling drum solo before ending the set at quarter after nine.
About a half hour later, they were back with “Just as Strange” and “Don’t Drift Away,” the latter appearing on the Live From The Fox Oakland release, before moving into another flute-driven tune: a cover of Ed and Lonnie Young’s 1960 blues-march version of “Chevrolet.”
Two new originals, each debuted within 2017, followed. “All The World” and “Shame,” a rollicking ballad that let out Tedeschi’s inner Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt. It was a heavy song, and engaged the entire audience of the Fox up through the very last notes.
The next three songs were all covers as well. Neil Young’s “Alabama,” a repeat from the previous night, was followed Billy Taylor‘s classic tune “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” on which Tedeschi channeled her inner Nina Simone. The second set closed with “I Pity The Fool,” a Bobby Blue Bland track that also appears on their Live From The Fox Oakland album.
The band returned for a three-song encore and moved into a touching tribute to Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” from the singer-songwriter’s 1994 solo release Wildflowers. “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” a heavy-hitting country music favorite sat in the middle, and the show ended, as many of them do, with “Bound For Glory.”