Govt Mule, Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN- 11/14
The Ryman Auditorium originally served as a church, then home of the Grand Ole Opry, and now as well host greats like rem., Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Coldplay and many other performers within the stained glass walls. The auditorium won Pollstar’s Best Live Music Theater award the past two years. It lends something to a band’s performance and over the past few years Gov’t Mule seems to have drawn from this energy even as it contributed its own spirit and intensity.
Over the past two years Gov’t Mule has brought its A game and some willing additional participants including Johnny Neel, Chris Robinson, Lee Roy Parnell, and most of the band Gomez. This year would prove no different. After a rocking start, fueled by great takes on “Mr. Man”, “Bad Man Walkin” and “Painted Silver Light,” Warren Haynes offered up the invitation for Nashville resident, Audley Freed to join in. Freed played alongside Mule bassist, Andy Hess in The Black Crowes, and his serious guitar chops have made him a favorite guest among the Mule and fans alike. Audley and Warren seamlessly traded off solos throughout a monstrous cover of “Sugaree” to highlight the first set.
The second set started off magically with Warren’s solo acoustic “Indian Sunset” being followed by mandolin maestro Marty Stuart joining the band on “Long Lonesome Whistle” and “Hide Your Love Away.” Stuart’s mandolin is very familiar to the Ryman, and his sound merged perfectly with Gov’t Mule. Marty’s stage persona is somewhat flashy in comparison to the workhorse Haynes, but his playful nature and ability got Warren riled up, and there was some humorous interaction between the two.
After a huge “Thelonious Beck,” former Allman Brothers guitarist Jack Pearson joined the band. Throughout a great “32-20 Blues” Warren and Jack volleyed lead back and forth with comfort and familiarity. During the “That’s What Love Will Make You Do” that followed, Jack and Warren continued to fuel the jam with incendiary guitar work. Jack brought out the best of Warren during this part of the show, providing the highlights of a night that had many other sterling moments.
All good things must come to an end, but not before you punctuate. So with time running out the group delivered a great cover of Tom Waits “Going Out West.” As Warren led the crowd through a sing along the band slipped away from their instruments and began to walk off the stage. But while our time had expired, one can only expect that Gov’t Mule will return to continue building a legacy at America’s Favorite Music Theater.