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Published: 2012/12/01
by Jim Murray

moe., Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, Providence, RI – 11/8

Photo by Dean Budnick

Fresh off a rogue Nor’easter that brought a bit of snow and a wave of cold to New England, moe. landed in Providence to begin the second stint of their fall tour. Watching guitarists Chuck Garvey and Al Schnier and bassist Rob Derhak plug in, all three buried in flannel and covered with wool caps there was a sense that they had arrived for a bit of woodshedding—which they wasted no time in proving correct.

The opening “Bring You Down” was an old classic, and served as a nice welcome into the show. It paced itself brilliantly, with Schnier taking the first solo of the night before slowing it down, and then Garvey jumping in to machine gun for a bit before the band eased back into the chorus. After some gorgeous swells atop the steady low end of Gerhak’s bass, the band moved effortlessly into the Latin tinges of CalifornIA. Both fierce and fun, this one found some space in the middle and offered percussionist Jim Loughlin a first chance on his xylophone. That the opening pair was the exact match to a University of Rhode Island show in 1996 was icing for the statgeeks, and perhaps a nod towards this night possibly being a throwback.

But the opening salvo was not done yet. Morphing through what seemed to resemble the beginnings of the Dead’s “Other One,” the band dropped into “Runaway Overlude” a tune that runs through a lyrical meditative before busting out with each front man taking a turn on vocals and then erupting into a thunderous conclusion.

Yes, three continuous songs in without a break: a very hot thirty-three minute start.

After a straightforward “Cathedral,” moe. descended right back into the madness, with a “Yodelittle>Mcbain>Yodelittle” sandwich that left little doubt as to their prerogative on this evening. The first segment of “Yodelittle” stayed pretty clean, with a bit of playful prodding between guitarists Garvey and Schnier, before an on-the-dime drop into “McBain,” a thirty-one minute odyssey that erased any concern of this being a one-set show due to early curfew. The first part was built on a dual guitar attack while Derhak drove a consistent, surging bassline; its second part was a nine-minute polychromatic xylophone excursion on the part of Loughlin, before a climactic second run that saw a rousing solo from Garvey, capped off with ‘Crosseyed and Painless’ teases as it hit its peak. And then there was the tail end of “Yodelitte” to wrap up a tremendous, improv and segue-laden first set.

If set one was built on monster intensity, set two was more on the relaxed and jovial side. Kicking things off with “Cissy Strut,” its eighth time played and only the third since 2001, the band immediately locked into a groove. Loughlin touched it up again on the xylophone before Derhak and drummer Vinnie Amico broke it back down, the real meat coming with an aggressive Schnier solo before he and Garvey synchronized the theme to carry it home.

The anthemic “Wind It Up” maintained the energy, building to a rousing crescendo, before the band dropped into “Puebla,” highlighted by the grit and fuzz of Schnier’s playing along with Garvey wailing mad-happy at the top. A very patient, smooth transition on the back of some pedal effects and Amico’s assertive drumming led into “Water.” This one found some ambient, sinister space, the band locked in and listening to each other, even offering slight ‘”CalifornIA” reprises before moving gracefully into the welcoming chords of favorite “Brent Black.”

It turns out Garvey had taken to Twitter earlier in the day to elicit fan requests, which made sense with some of the out-of-the-box selections from this evening. In the midst of a raucous ‘Brent Black’ that trend continued, the band peppering in the percolating “That Coffee Tune,” which had been dusted off only a week earlier in Nashville for Halloween for the first time since 1997. Not to go unmentioned, as well, was a Derhak percussive solo that ended with him bashing the shit out of the gong.

The encore was no throwaway, either, the band inviting longtime fan Andy Freed (veteran: 175 shows) up to play shaker on the infrequent “Johnny Lineup,” and capping things off with the punch of old classic “She Sends Me.”

All in all, a very pleasantly wonderful show from a very professional veteran band; it contained everything a fan of jambands searches out in the live experience: endurance, adventure, bustouts, and some gags along the way. Kudos, moe., on your very best nights, you remain one of the torchbearers.

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