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Concert Review: Gov’t Mule and Guests, The Wiltern, Los Angeles, 9.26.17

Photo: Martine Ehrenclou

By Martine Ehrenclou

Gov’t Mule put on a mind-blowing show at The Wiltern theater, a three-hour event that featured elite, guest musicians. As if Grammy Award-winning vocalist and Guitar legend, Warren Haynes, Matt Abts (drums,) Danny Louis (keys, guitar, vocals) and Jorgen Carlsson (bass) weren’t enough. Talk about some of the best musicians around. They also honored the late Walter Becker, Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks.

For those of you who don’t know, Gov’t Mule was formed in 1994 as a side project of The Allman Brothers Band, by Warren Haynes, the late bassist Allen Woody, and drummer Matt Abts. Mule’s music has roots in blues, southern rock, soul and jazz, and they are known for their extended, improvisational jams.

With two sets and an encore, Gov’t Mule and guests played 19 songs altogether but they were played with extended jams. The evening began with “Railroad Boy” then “Thorazine Shuffle” and then one of my new favorites, “Beautifully Broken.” Haynes’ vocals and guitar chops on all three were soulful and beautifully played. Abts, Louis, and Carlsson were equally as good. Loyal fans stood in the aisles as the band played a few songs from their recently released album, Revolution Come… Revolution Go.

The light show, flashing in all directions, combined with the smoke machine off to the side on the stage, enhanced the 70s-ish jam atmosphere of the night. There were plenty of tie-dyed shirts, headbands, drinks and smokes in the crowd. The scene was a bit of a time warp, like something straight out of Woodstock.

The first set featured guests Jimmy Vivino on guitar, Scott Paige on sax (Pink Floyd) and keyboardist, Jeff Young (Steely Dan) for the Steely Dan hit, “Dirty Work.” Paige’s sax solo was a highlight and revved the crowd. John Molo replaced Matt Abts when “Dirty Work” bled into “Won 4 Walter Jam.” “Don’t Take Me Alive,” another Steely Dan cover, followed with Vivino on guitar, alongside Haynes.

Warren Haynes’ soulful vocal and guitar chops paired with the other stellar musicians, lent a magical air to the evening. World-class talent on one stage. There was an air of respect, of awe, in the room.

Their first set was moving, meaningful. How often do you see a band who actually creates a performance that honors fallen music greats and features additional celebrated musicians? There was thought and care put into this show. How easy it could have been for a band to run through their crowd-pleasing songs and tracks from their latest album. But this was Gov’t Mule, a band like few others of their caliber.

The second set, as unbelievable as that may seem, opened with the funky, “Maggot Brain,” a Funkadelic cover, featuring guitarist Eric McFadden, formerly of Parliament/Funkadelic. “Stone Cold Rage” then drew raves from the crowd. The song left few standing.

“Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground” (Blind Willie Johnson cover) again drew soulful and brilliant vocals and guitar riffs/solos from Warren Haynes and stellar musical chops from the team.

Duane Betts (son of Dickey Betts) appeared on stage for covers, “Whipping Post” and “Blue Sky.” Betts’ talent on guitar may be DNA inspired but I’m sure there have been years of experience and hard work that went into the making. The tribute to Allman continued with the encore of “Melissa” and “Mountain Jam,” where Vivino once again joined the group. Three guitarists on stage only augmented this musical feast, a concert like none other I’ve seen.

A show not to be forgotten, not just for its unusual extended jams and excellent musicianship, but for the tributes paid to those music icons we lost in the last year.

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Concert Review: Gov’t Mule and Guests, The Wiltern, Los Angeles, 9.26.17


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