by Kelley Bass
There are very few families in which Susan Tedeschi wouldn’t be the best guitar player. But when you marry Derek Trucks you don’t have a chance, even if you’re arguably the best female guitarist out there. Rolling Stone named Trucks the 16th best guitarist of all time — living or dead — and at 33 he’s the youngest of the Top 100. But, damn, Tedeschi can really play.
That was just one of the revelations that emerged from the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s amazing, transcendent, two-hour concert Sunday at Robinson Center Music Hall. Tedeschi and Trucks were each major musical forces before they united as a couple and more recently as co-band leaders. “Revelator,” the TTB’s debut album, won the Grammy last year for best blues album, but it’s selling the band short to categorize it as strictly a blues band. This band rocks, and the gospel underpinnings are easy to hear. And, yes, it’s a bluesy bunch, too.
More after the jump.
Perhaps the coolest thing about the TTB is that, even though they certainly could, Tedeschi and Trucks don’t hog the spotlight. This is truly a “band,” an amazing 11-piece band, and not just musicians backing the two superstars. And everybody gets his or her chance to shine.
As they have in many shows this tour (and on their recent live album of the same title) the TTB opened with a blues-ified, rocked-up version of “Everybody’s Talkin’,” the 1969 Harry Nilsson pop hit that was featured in “Midnight Cowboy.” And, as has also been the norm on the tour, the group closed its two-song encore with an extended, jam-band treatment of “I Want to Take You Higher,” a 12-minute version of the 4-minute soul hit, also from 1969, by Sly and the Family Stone. That one let almost every musician be the focus, but none more convincingly than trumpet player Maurice Brown, who basically just went plumb crazy on his instrument.
In between, the TTB gave rousing performances of many of the best cuts from “Relevator,” though for some reason they bypassed “Learn How to Love,” perhaps the hottest guitar-dominated track on the album. “Bound for Glory” was pure bluesy gospel, and it showed Tedeschi at her best on vocals. “Midnight in Harlem” slowed things down and was equal parts soulful and poignant.
Midway through the show Tedeschi started showing off her guitar chops, which are very different than her husband’s. She is straight ahead blues-rock in fast-fingered action, while Trucks is bluesier, plays slide a lot and is probably a bit more tasty and precise with his chops.
A good friend who was also still basking in the morning-afterglow made this excellent point about Tedeschi and Trucks in our e-mail exchange: “They really let the band carry it. I was constantly amazed at literally everyone’s inventive playing in support of one another. Oteil Burbridge laying down amazing bass lines while the trumpet player stole the show comes to mind. That band could easily be a disastrous ego-fest, but they all serve the music. It’s just joyous.”
Burbridge and Trucks are the bassist and co-lead guitarist, respectively, for The Allman Brothers, and several of the other musicians were members of the Derek Trucks Band before he joined forces with Tedeschi. It’s truly an all-star band, and one that luckily gets to show its stuff in numerous and varied ways.
The only minor downside? Some songs were just a bit “jammy” for my tastes, meaning they meandered down side roads for pretty long periods before bringing things back around to the original medley. But just because I prefer more tightly buttoned up four-minute songs doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the talent and creativity the members of The Tedeschi Trucks Band demonstrate in those extended jams.