moe./Gov’t Mule, Red Rocks Ampitheater, Morrison, CO.- 7/1
I've never been to Red Rocks before and my brain almost seized upon walking through the trees scattered around the Monument To All That Is Right, but why? Maybe it had a little bit to do with breathing the thin air on a long hike up the lower north staircase. Or was it…the DOUBLE haymaker to the dome of seeing a real symbiosis of human and nature in the glorious venue, and hearing Danny Louis playing trumpet on that very stage. Louis picked up keyboards after bell's palsy ravaged the nerves in his face, making it impossible to play much trumpet. Yet, there he was in the midst of Red Rocks blowin' away.
Mule was in the middle of building up a snaky, dirty "Thorazine Shuffle," with Matt Abts cracking quarter notes on the snare, Louis adding freak wails from the keys (after he put the trumpet down), Andy Hess maintaining a fat, firm low end on bass and Warren Haynes blistering love and fury and the same time out of his Les Paul. Just as things got steamy, Haynes, Hess and Abts drop down for Louis to rip an evil solo, showing the crowd he went zealously ahead with his new career tool. The solo slot was then tossed to Abts who lowered the dynamic with cowbell and cymbal hit likes soft gunshots. Ever so subtly, Haynes and Hess came back into the fray, building up until the pot exploded for a furious wail climax. "Beautifully Broken" followed giving the crowd a chance to rest and hear some emotion outpour. The volume picked back up right after with blistering takes on "Slackjaw Jezebel" and "Lola Leave Your Light On" that bellowed through the rocks and mountains.
Before the sit-in madness ensued, the essence of Mule radiated that being their skill at playing hard and frantically, using many notes and odd meters and yet making damn near everything count. This band that has suffered enough to hear it genuinely in the music. On "About To Rage" the band shot out spine crushing fire with a carefully orchestrated, soul wrenching song. It was thick and heavy, but it all felt strong as hell.
For "No Celebration," Xavier Rudd came out to lend a hand with his didgeridoo, with Haynes donning his slide, and Abts beating away on a djembe with lots of dark feel. Mike Gordon joined in for "Banks of the Deep End," giving the crowd a dose of Mule's past of rotating bassists. Al Schnier came out, guitar in tow, for a wavy ambience section that eased its way into the Dead's "Loser." The bluesy tension built and built until the band jumped into the end of "Terrapin Station," to massive delight.
To finish the set, Mule shot a hole through the happiness with a fierce, scary "Silent Scream." But it was not too long before smiling and swaying ensued during a powerful "Soulshine." It was almost as if Mule said things can't be bad all the time.
For the encore, Chuck Garvey came out to trade serious picks with Mule on "Sco-Mule." As the intensity built during the jam part of the tune, Louis pointed back and forth to Haynes, Garvey and himself, and all three traded ripping bars in a rotating circle. With the wind blowing the hanging speaker cabinets left and right, the trading around really sounded like it was moving in circles around Red Rocks. Abts picked up the energy for the whole band to explode the ending of the song.
Feeling the rock, moe. opened their set with a mean "Head," then going sharply into "The Pit." To get things upbeat and slightly goofy, the band got the crowd up with "Spine of A Dog." Staying true to his addiction for playing with at least two different bands at a show, Haynes came out to rock "Mexico" a little harder than usual. Haynes fit well into moe.'s deconstruction/rebuild-and-fire-away jam style. He got Garvey and Schnier to engage in a little Allman Brothers guitar layering. Rob Derhak took a moment to point out the detriment of Sandra Day O'Connor retiring from the Supreme Court, before finishing the tune.
With "Buster" into "George," the band explored avenues of eerie ambience, stretching even further from each other. Yet, as they always do, they jumped right back on the one with "Plane Crash" to get the vibrations going through Red Rocks. moe. tied the whole night together nicely with "The Road" giving a taste of every bit of exploration throughout the night. Just when the energy was high, the band busted right back into "head," to careen the whole hilltop into madness with a giant rock out, one of things moe. does best. A whole ton of rock at Red Rocks was a mighty fine way to first see and hear the place.