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Published: 2015/06/18
by Larson Sutton

Tedeschi Trucks Band, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Doyle Bramhall II, Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, CA- 6/10

Photo by Dino Perrucci

Seven months after Tedeschi Trucks Band closed the 2014 season at the Greek, the 11-piece ensemble returned to the wooded Los Angeles amphitheater, bringing friends Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and Doyle Bramhall II along for the ride on its cross-country Wheels of Soul tour. Though essentially still in support of the 2013 release, Made Up Mind, Tedeschi Trucks Band’s overflow of talent and penchant for inspired, in-the-moment musical excursions, not to mention the addition of guest harmony singer Alecia Chakour extending the troupe to an even dozen, rendered the carryover in repertoire from the visit last fall inconsequential. Instead, guitarist Derek Trucks, buttressed by multi-instrumentalist Kofi Burbridge and singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi, spun the 13-song outing into a recitation on group improvisational mastery.

Turning loose the evening with the “Are You Ready/Made Up Mind” couplet, Trucks appeared ambitious from the start, his icy slide slicing with intent as it soared above the brass blasts of the three-piece TTB horns. On a night teeming with tempered, exacting aggression, as “Do I Look Worried” zeroed out with a flourish, followed by an abbreviated “Swamp Raga” intro into the applause of recognition for the enduringly elegant “Midnight in Harlem,” Trucks and spouse Tedeschi’s articulating guitars repeatedly commanded the stage. Indeed, there was ebullient singer Mike Mattison’s spotlight moment on “Get What You Deserve,” and Burbridge’s supple flute and versatile keyboards on an extended “Idle Wind,” and the drumming pair of J.J. Johnson and Tyler Greenwell supporting as much as showcasing their percussive prowess, all wrangled in authoritatively by bassist Tim Lefebrve beneath his white ten-gallon. Yet, despite any intention a song may have had of staying true to its roadmap, the welcome journeys onto unchartered paths often came fast and ferociously from Trucks and his magic fingers.

Maybe it was the hot coals left on stage by Jones and the smoldering soul of her Dap-Kings, her shimmering blue sequins and fringe as captivating as her joyous voice and story of revitalization as a cancer survivor. Maybe it was Doyle Bramhall II’s criminally short opening slot, the last gleams of the setting Southern California sunshine flecking his ragged poncho and liberated hair reminiscent of his old boss Eric Clapton (ala Cream), exorcising the blues from his battered Strat as the fashionably late took their seats. Whatever the motivation, Tedeschi Trucks Band was not about to be overshadowed by its predecessors’ performances. In fact, in the familial spirit of this Wheels trek, both Jones and Bramhall II reprised their appearances with the headliner; the former seconding Tedeschi’s emotions on a rippling rendition of Etta James’ “Tell Mama,” while the latter conversed on six-string with Trucks and Tedeschi, leveling “Key to the Highway” and “All That I Need.” Fitting for the vast sonic explorations undertaken by these musical voyagers, the evening closed emphatically on the Mad Dogs and Englishmen classic “Space Captain,” as Trucks and trumpeter Maurice Brown dueled to the finish.

As the lights came up and Tedeschi thanked the audience, she offered news of a forthcoming album, its future release date undetermined. Perhaps this was her way of saying good-bye to the departing crowd as well as prepping them for the farewell to this period of the group’s career. To its credit, Tedeschi Trucks Band has challenged itself and won again and again in finding new means of expression from its nascent catalog of two studio albums and a double-live collection- only one entry tonight coming from the Grammy-winning debut Revelator. This team seems on a mission of discovery of all that’s possible in the present before it progresses forward to the precipice of new territory, with a jubilant and cathartic stop at the Greek in the rear-view as the Wheels roll on.

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