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Published: 2001/10/23
by Jai Sanders

Gov’t Mule, Tabernacle, Atlanta, GA- 10/20

"Advanced Learning"

I finally understand the full meaning of New School of Gov't Mule.

Remember when you were in grade school and you were learning multiplication tables? You were told that this was serious stuff and it would become the foundation of everything else you learned. Well, that's what Gov't Mule was when it was a trio with Allen Woody. It was serious stuff, it was direct, it was difficult and for many of us, unlike multiplication tables, it was enjoyable. Then, after you got through basic math you eventually got to algebra where you had a formula and you learned that you could change all sorts of stuff around but the basic formula and the rules of multiplication and stuff stayed the same. Well, that's what the New School of Gov't Mule is. You can move parts around or change members of the band but it's still the Mule.

Gov't Mule is coming to the end of a very successful tour previewing The Deep End, V1 (ATO Records). On this tour the band has featured some of the bassists on the album (Les Claypool, Alphonso Johnson, Mike Gordon, Tony Levin and then some) but the tour has been mostly the two bassists closest to home, Dave Schools and Oteil Burbridge, Atlanta got Oteil. And man, did Atlanta get Oteil!

I was excited and intrigued by Oteil on bass. I have been listening to Aquarium Rescue Unit (Oteil's first recorded band) since before Warren and (Allen) Woody were in the Allmans. I knew about Oteil's audition for the Allmans before most had heard his name. This guy has always amazed me but Gov't Mule's music is quite different than most of what Oteil plays and I wasn't sure what it would really sound like. My concerns were laid to rest early in show. Although Warren has always gotten the press I have always been quite certain that Woody was the force behind the band. With Chuck Leavell on keys, Oteil has a larger support band but he brings quite a lot of that same drive. I won't get into a spitting contest about Oteil vs Woody vs Schools but I will say that I heard things on the stage that I hadn't heard since I last saw Woody on that stage.

First we were treated to a promo video related to The Deep End. It was great to hear several of the bassists involved giving words of wisdom related to what the bass means in modern music and what it was like to a part of this project. The band came on and the music was right from the beginning. Most of the first set was devoted to Life Before Insanity, standouts being "Bad Little Doggie" and "Tastes Like Wine". There was also the wonderful new ballad, "Beautifully Broken" and the Howlin' Wolf classic, "How Many More Years" done Mule-style and the band was stompin' hard! The first set ended with one of my old school favorites, "Thorazine Shuffle" and Warren admonishing us to not "go nowhere."

The second set saw these guys hit a stride, or should I say gallop. A little old school Warren with "Fire In The Kitchen" from his only solo album followed by an amazing "Gambler's Roll", a song from Warren's Allman Brothers days. The momentum was maintained by a great, expansive version of "Compared to What" which Chuck sings. Chuck Leavell shows such style and brings a deep wisdom to his instrument and music. "Sco-Mule" is a fun instrumental written when John Scofield played two shows with the Mule back in 99 and Warren was pulling out his best Scof imitation. After the ubiquitous drum solo and "Soulshine" they ended the set with the signature song "Mule" with the always cool and pertinent "What Is Hip?" (Tower Of Power) thrown in the middle.

The raucous screams of the crowd brought the band plus one out for the encore. Audley Freed, friend of Warren and guitarist for the Black Crowes came over to play after his band finished their two-night stand at the Atlanta Civic Center. Now, considering what has happened in America in the past month & a half Warren decided to tell us what's what during the encore, dealing with all the confusion and mixed emotions. First up was Humble Pie's ode to Mary Jane, "30 Days In The Hole" which the band absolutely nailed. But the most telling song was yet to come. Actually it was a medley of sorts. Warren sings the last verse of Dylan's "Masters Of War" and the last chord of that was actually the first chord of Neil Young's "Rockin' In The Free World", not actually an antiwar anthem but a strong statement. That meandered into a little of "All Along The Watchtower" and finally back into "Rockin' In The Free World" with an added verse about Matt and Warren losing their best friend (Allen Woody) but you got to keep on rockin in the free world!

In the old days the Mule would get on stage working on some telepathic level and seriously pin your ears back. These days the players are taking musical jabs at each other but they are smiling all night just like you did in the advanced math classes where you used what you knew to learn something new and you'd smile because you got it right. Gov't Mule, no matter the bassist or extras on stage, continues to get it right.

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