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Gov’t Mule, Connor Palace Theatre, Cleveland, OH- 9/12

On the final night of the Lockn’ festival the Allman Brothers Band paid tribute to Warren Haynes’ longtime guitar tech, Brian Farmer, who passed away two weeks earlier. As Gov’t Mule began its fall tour at Cleveland’s Connor Palace Theatre, fans continued the public displays of mourning and appreciation – yelling out his name during the two-and-a-half hour show and holding up signs with his photo and #ThankYouFarmer.

As usual, with Mule, it all begins with frontman, Warren Haynes. Yes, it did seem, at times, as if there was a tenuous relationship with the new roadie handling his guitars, and fans were looking for any possible detail that offered a nod towards the loss, i.e. a gut-wrenching performance of “Banks of the Deep End,” which was originally about bassist Allen Woody’s passing. Yet despite such moments, Haynes could be seen smiling on several occasions. In some ways he was in a playful mood, tossing in teases throughout the set — “The Other One” jam, a line from “Gimme Shelter,” a bit from “Stairway to Heaven” and “She’s So Heavy” outro. During “Gameface” there were stops on “Mountain Jam,” “Birdland,” “Third Stone from the Sun” and “Norwegian Wood.” Only during “Beautifully Broken” did the band commit and segue into Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ classic “Breakdown,” which found Haynes repeating, “It’s alright,” before finally returning to the original number.

Matt Abts, Danny Louis and Jorgen Carlsson present such an amazingly precise foundation that they can almost be taken for granted. Together, the foursome lock into a groove, spin on a dime due to some shift in arrangement and make it all look so easy throughout the night, especially on “Broke Down on the Brazos,” “Scared to Live,” “Slackjaw Jezebel” and “Lucky.” It’s enough to help ease away the pain.

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