Derek Trucks Band, State Theater, Falls Church, VA- 11/7
Let me begin that by saying that it's been over 5 years since I last saw the Derek Trucks Band. I've watched (or more accurately, heard) Derek as a member of the Allman Brothers on many occasions in the interim, but hadn't made my way to see him solo. I know now that was a mistake on my part. Already a veteran at the ripe old age of 23, he showed that deserves his place on stage with music's best and also knows how to lead his own band. Judging from the large size of the crowd at the State Theater, it's clear that the DTB will be a mainstay for years.
From the outset of the set, you could feel a little of the Allmans in the air (if for no other reason than the diversity of ages at the show) as the opening song immediately took you to a similar place as minute 20 or so of Mountain Jam. But both Yonrico Scott on drums/percussion and Todd Smallie on bass served notice that they would not be lost in someone's else's groove, taking immediate solos and laying down their own brand of soul-world-funk. Derek's virtuosity became quickly evident as he managed to pull a variety of different feelings from his guitar in rapid succession.
Mike Madison joined the band on vocals for the next two tunes (as he would for most of the night). The first song also featured keyboardist/flutist Kofi Burbridge (and also his stacked-this-high hair shining in the lights). These tunes, "Gotta Move" and "Feel So Bad," set the true feel for the night – one of deep, soul-blues, R&B, as heartfelt vocals were balanced by Derek's counter melodies. Using his slide and constantly changing voices, he showed why he is often mentioned in the same sentence as Duane Allman.
A tune from the new DTB album (_Joyful Noise_) called "Maki Madni" followed, and Derek showed that his melodic prowess can be compared to that of Steve Kimock without a snicker. With great patience, he took the time to state the theme, develop it, change it, pass it back forth with Kofi on the flute and then bring it back home. All the while, the bass and drum set a solid foundation that helped build the feeling but didn't distract from it.
The blues came back hard on "Goin' Down Slow," where Mike showed that he wouldn't be outdone by Derek's dynamics, letting his vocals run the full range of emotion. The band set a train-steady groove in motion that Derek layered with short powerful machine gun-esque phrases.
Next was a personal treat as local sax-legend Ron Holloway joined the band for James Brown's "Chicken," and another, "Cheesecake." Ron has played with almost everyone worth his or her salt that has come through D.C., and tonight was no exception. With the bass laying down runs in every direction, Ron was given the freedom to explore a number of different themes, each unique its own feel and color. Kofi took the opportunity to funk freely, pushing Ron even further.
The soul-funk continued in full force with "Home in your Heart," as Derek managed to pull a wah-pedal sound out of his guitar, with the only problem that a wah-peddle was nowhere to be seen. Taking Derek's cue, Kofi took a turn at his Hohrner funk-board, adding another layer of groove on top. With the bass and drums keeping the groove, the next tune, "Anything is Everything," gave Derek' slide plenty of space fill the room, as Mike's vocals told a powerful tale.
The next tune, "Like Anyone Else," found Mike touching on Smokey Robinson heights with Derek again rounding out the melody between the vocal phrases. One was again reminded of Duane in the studio playing behind R&B's great vocalists.
The band changed directions with the next tune, "Pedro," as the DTB met a Latin beat, anchored by hip-shaking drums, and a rhythmic, popping bass. Derek and Kofi traded the melody throughout, and it was difficult at times to hear where one stopped and the other started as they finished each other's phrases and then took them in new directions. The band traded 4 and 8s around, with Yonrico making sure that no one strayed too far from home.
With the closer "Joyful Noise," Derek stepped fully into Robert Randolph's world, and did so with great success. Yonrico laid down a shuffle beat that set Derek off into a melodic-gospel groove. The song also featured a guitarist from Muddy Waters band, but his presence was a bit lost in Derek's soaring playing.
Aside from a couple of mixing problems (a common event at the State), the evening was just what DC needed given recent events songs you knew played at levels you hadn't imagined.