Gov’t Mule, Palace Theatre, Louisville, KY
Louisville's Palace Theater is a breathtakingly beautiful venue. It is one of the all-too-few historic venues across the country still opening their majestic doors to the gospel of rock and roll. Yet until this night, Gov't Mule, one of the hardest working bands around, had never played the prestigious theater.
Wasting no time with formalities Warren Haynes made his mark on the wall with an arresting "Hammer and Nails." In a rather assertive fashion Matt Abts and Andy Hess then took over the show during "Thorazine Shuffle." The driving percussion of Abts paired with Andy Hess' versatile bass play has given Gov't Mule new direction. Matt has always been a massive presence in Gov't Mule's chemistry. He plays with exacting precision and unbridled authority behind the kit. Alongside Matt, Andy Hess has really found a tremendous grasp of the Mule arsenal, and with certainty is at home with the Mule. After flying high thru the first few songs, the first set seemed to fall a little flat after "Bad Little Doggie." The massively painted sky overhead seemed to have swallowed up the energy, and the bands sound seemed to weaken and fade away. Warren's offering of Otis Rush's "I can't quit you Baby" salvaged the moment, and helped bring the set to a nice breaking point.
The roller coaster continued throughout the second set. Dusting off the shelves "If 6 was 9" made its first appearance in over three years. "Like Flies" exemplified the new extraordinary sound of the Mule. Reconnecting with the edgy rocking sound of early era Mule, and yet completely new and representative of Andy Hess and Danny Louis' essential roles in the creative efforts of the band. Matt Abts is one of a handful of drummers deserved of as much time as needed to pound out extra energy during a show. After seemingly testing the limits of human ability during one of his drum solo sections, Abts led the band in perfect stride into "Gameface," and segued from there right into a stupendous "Mountain Jam." With all of the Allman Brothers Band fans in the house beaming with joy, Warren offered up the signature "Soulshine," and it did seem fresh in a new setting.
Throughout their joint tour with Donavon Frankenreiter many nights they invited the laid-back surf crooner out to help close the show. Offering renditions of "Almost Cut My Hair", or "All Along the Watchtower," yet on this cold Kentucky night the Mule would close up shop alone with the "Mr. High and Mighty".
Overall, while the night's effort may have fallen a little short of the bar set by Gov't Mule, it did provide some strong moments, which coupled with a stellar setting, certainly made it all worthwhile.