Gov’t Mule, Beacon Theatre, NYC- 12/30 & 12/31
Gov’t Mule’s annual New Years runs at the Beacon Theatre have become a tradition in a long string of traditions for the Beacon Theatre. The Beacon is like potato chips to musicians: "Bet you can’t just play one show?" For all who have not been to the theatre your chances of seeing it before it is redone in 2008 are limited, so get there soon.
On to the MusicDecember 30th was an all-around good show for the Mule. The first set started with "Streamline Women," a new tune off the High and Mighty album. This is another one of those powerful songs Warren Haynes creates about powerful women (a motif in many of his songs). Next came a few songs that have been in the repertoire for a while but still deliver a big punch, including: "Bad Little Doggie," "Time to Confess" and "Patchwork Quilt." All these were quite good but what came next made the first set. A spectacular stretch started off with "Gameface," which led into a monstrous "Mountain Jam" and then back into "Gameface" To close things the Mule invited both Luther and Cody Dickinson from North Mississippi Allstars (the opener) for "Smokestack Lighting" and a guitar-blazing "32-30 Blues" with only Cody.
The second set started out with two songs off the new album, "Brighter Days" and "Like Flies, each one with a symbolic meaning to the situation that the nation finds itself in these days. After some excellent keyboard work by Danny Louis, the Mule started "When Doves Cry," which drove into "Beautifully Broken" back into "When Doves Cry" and then ended with "Beautifully Broken," a nice series of twists. Next Peter Levin came out and played on "Devil Likes it Slow" before Matt Abts delivered Drums to a crowd of screaming lunatics, which led into the "Nothing Again. Then after a pause, Andy Hess fiery bass line began "Don’t Step on The Grass Sam," a great cover, and when guitar tech Brian Farmer brought out the ol’ cardboards with the words, the crowd ate it all up. To close out the second set the Mule threw in the classic "Blind Man in the Dark."
For an encore the raving New York crowd was treated to "Long Distance Call" with Danny Draher ripping it up on guitar. Lastly, Gordie Johnson came out and played on "Thirty Days in the Hole" which would be a tease as to what was going to happen on New Years, when Gordie played with the band off and on during the night. ***
The New Years Eve tickets had announced that the December 31st show would be called Dub Side of The Mule. The idea seemed great in theory but in practice there were a few problems.
Before then, the night started with a Mule classic, Thorazine Shuffle, and set one turned out to be the strongest of the night. It was pure Govt Mule, with no sit-ins, and while it was shorter, it packed a larger punch. The band rolled through a couple Beatles covers (She Said, She Said, Tomorrow Never Knows) as well as the fan favorite, Sco-Mule. Then the stage was reset to accommodate all the extra performers to deliver the highly anticipated second set: Dub Side of The Mule.
For Govt Mule to delve into the world of Dub they enlisted some old friends and a reggae legend. To start the second set Govt Mule came out and played three songs with their recent record producer/engineer Gordie Johnson who also served as Master of Ceremonies. Gordie then introduced Toots Hibbert and the Dub began. The set started off strong, but didnt live up to expectations. Toots Hibbert is a legend in his own right and is amazing at what he does but at times he held the microphone too close to his face and yelled into it, so that he could not be understood. After a while it started to drag a little bit.
Once midnight arrived the large amount of players from the Dub set (which included vocalists and a horn section) started Turn on Your Lovelight. Lovelight was the right selection for the right moment and had everyone back on their feet. Next came a reggae version of Soulshine, and this song, which one year received both Song of the Year and Most Overplayed Song by Relix magazine, came to new life with a reggae twist.
After a long set break and some rearranging of the stage again, Warren Haynes stepped to the microphone and the crowd was silent as he introduced, Ladies and Gentleman, Gregg Allman and Friends. The surprise definitely made up for the lengthy break. Gregg Allman and Friends were booked for New Years Eve at The North Fork Theater at Westbury which is about an hour from the Beacon. They then took the stage and played Sweet Feeling and Just Like A Woman. The bands take on Bob Dylans Just Like A Woman was a real treat and one of the many highlights of the night.
Greggs Friends then departed but Allman stayed on to play with his fellow Allman Brothers bandmate Haynes for two more songs: Feel So Bad (which featured a slew of guest musicians including John Popper) and a crowd-pleasing Dreams. Gordie Johnson then stepped out for two songs from the new album he produced for the Mule and then the stage swelled for a rendition of Its A Mans World. The third set closed with Ramblin Gamblin Man before the one-two encore of It Hurts Me Too and Goin’ Out West.
All in all it was exciting, exhausting night due to the massive amount of guest performers. The Dub set was a great idea, but might be better to be left out for what we hope will be a 2007 New Years Beacon run (why break a Beacon tradition?).