Mention Tedeschi Trucks Band and probably the most frequent reaction will be something along the lines of “blues rock” or “southern rock”. While not wrong, neither goes anywhere near describing the ferment of influences and sound created by such a deeply talented group of artists around their virtuoso guitarist founders, Susan Tedeschi and husband Derek Trucks. Some years ago ‘Rolling Stone’ summarised TTB’s second studio album as being “equal part Stax and Muscle Shoals without the dilution of either”. TTB’s third of three sell-out shows at the London Palladium confirmed beyond doubt the continued validity of that claim.
In two sets TTB made repeated visits to both Memphis, Tennessee and Sheffield, Alabama. Tedeschi’s bluesy soulful voice and playing are at home in both while Trucks, effortlessly coaxing exquisite sound from his various Gibson SGs, took not just this reviewer but most of the audience right back to Duane Allman at Muscle Shoals. That link is strong. In 1999 Trucks joined his uncle Butch in the Allman Brothers Band until the band’s final split in 2014.
A feature of TTB shows is an ever changing setlist. Not for them the same songs night after night. Instead, they combine selections from their extensive back catalogue with covers that shine a light into their myriad of influences. For this tour though a substantial part of the setlist came from ‘I Am The Moon’ a four album project released earlier this year.
Tedeschi and Trucks are the focus but certainly not the entirety of the band. Ten others filed onstage to take up position; horn and harmony vocal sections of three each, two drummers, keys and bassist makes for a big band. But as Trucks gently opened ‘Hear My Dear’ from the new album, Gabe Dixon’s Hammond swirl flowed around Tedeschi’s expressive vocals. The others joined in until as one the TTB hummed perfectly.
Three more followed from ‘I Am The Moon’. Effortlessly Trucks punctuated ‘Fall In’ with some delightful slide that was just so redolent of the Allmans around Mike Mattison’s vocals. Trucks went up a gear for the title track as his blistering solo defined this new project born in the isolation of pandemic and Inspired by a mythic Persian tale of star-crossed lovers, Layla and Majnun. Perhaps unsurprisingly, their first cover came from Derek and the Dominoes, ‘Bell Bottom Blues’.
Apart from Tedeschi’s warm greetings and profound gratitude, the TTB let the music do the talking. Trucks looked as if he was in a trance throughout, possibly resulting from such sustained playing, yet he prowled the stage drawing out yet more from the various sections. Throughout ‘Part Of Me’ he egged on the horn section, particularly saxophonist Kebbi Williams to greater heights. From ‘I Am The Moon’ the instrumental ’Pasaquan’ gave Trucks full licence to perform. The drum rolls around his opening sequences could have been the Allmans opening up ‘Mountain Jam’. A deft riff then the rhythm section upped the pace as Trucks duelled with those around him before each took a solo turn.
After such shredding Tedeschi brought the heart rate back down to more manageable levels with ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ in tribute to Bonnie Raitt who brought the Mike Reid song to many.
For the second set the band dug into their own material starting with ‘Until You Remember’ from their debut ‘Revelator’. TTB is very inclusive, each member gets a shot, this time it was a magnificent trumpet solo from Ephraim Owens. Saxophonist Williams opened the classic, ‘Midnight In Harlem’. Tedeschi and Trucks rocked out on ‘Anyhow’ before exchanging solos on ‘Whiskey Legs’.
The covers were truly a mixed bag ranging from a pounding version of Dr John’s ‘I Walk On Guilded Splinters’ with vocals from Mattison to match. Trucks modestly sat behind his amp while Tedeschi paid tribute to John Prine with a heartfelt ‘Angel From Montgomery’. Perhaps an unusual, but no less effective, selection was the more contemporary ‘Sign of The Times’ by Harry Styles. Back on more familiar territory ‘Bound For Glory’ closed the set. To this blues rocking classic harmony singer Alecia Chakour added a gospel layer. The TTB went to Joe Tex for the encore. ‘Show Me’ was a rousing fun farewell that just confirmed the power of music.
If Tedeschi Trucks Band are be a bit too rooted in blues and soul for some americana fans the clue lies in “roots”. This is a band who know where they come from as they delve deep into a rich musical heritage and isn’t that what americana is all about anyway? Whatever, this was a night just to appreciate a group of outstanding musicians.
Great review. I couldn’t get there but a well-informed review helps. Susan Tedeschi has just the best voice, Derek’s playing is powerful yet subtle and the band is magnificent. Thanks
Thank you Jeremy. You sum up TTB perfectly, hope you get to see them next time round.