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The Loop

Published: 2013/12/11
by Joe Raniere

Gov’t Mule featuring Robby Krieger, Los Angeles, CA- 10/30

Gov’t Mule featuring Robby Krieger
The Music Box at the Fonda
Los Angeles, CA
October 30

On October 30th, Gov’t Mule returned to the Fonda Theatre on Hollywood Blvd for the first of two Halloween shows going down in the Golden state. One set featured an abundance of material from their self-titled debut, their latest release Shout and a few cuts from albums in-between. A second set included a celebration of one of the most legendary back catalogs of all-time, the music of the Doors. To make these occasions that much more special, Robby Krieger, the guitarist of the seminal band being fêted, would be joining Warren Haynes and company.

Many flavors of Mule were dished out for a solid first set. The band kicked things with a pair of Monk-meets-Mountain instrumentals, “Trane” and “Eternity’s Breath.” They revved the engines with hard rockers like “Rocking Horse” and “World Boss” but would also slow things down for the starry night headiness of songs like “Whispered In Your Soul” and “When the World Gets Small.” Some reggae vibes were sandwiched mid-set with “Unring the Bell.” The set closed with the face-melting jam-boree combo of “Thorazine Shuffle” and “Funny Little Tragedy.”

The first set also included an appearance by bass player Andy Fraser of the English rock band Free. As one would expect, he joined the band for “Mr. Big,” the barn burning rock stomp by his former band, which has been part of the Mule’s repertoire since their earliest days. While it was known that Robby Krieger would be on the bill for weeks, Fraser’s presence was an additional and unannounced treat for those already expecting a memorable evening.

Matt Abts started off the second set with that familiar bossa nova flavored percussion intro of “Break on Through (To the Other Side).” Robby Krieger’s slinky guitar work crept in and within a few moments, Warren was handling vocals on this invitation to another realm of consciousness. The instant that the whole band came crashing in, it was apparent that this would be an enchanting evening. You could almost imagine the spirit of Jim Morrison beckoning “Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin.”

The Doors set served up a generous amount of songs from all six of the classic lineup’s studio albums. The funky wah-wah sounds of “Peace Frog” had fans letting it all out and shaking on down. “Light My Fire” lived up to its title with Warren and Robby exchanging blazing solos. The barroom blues rockers like “Love Me Two Times” and “Been Down So Long” were naturally suited for the Mule dynamic and went over impressively. A family member and a former band mate of Robby’s joined in on the fun, with his son Waylon taking on vocals for the doom march “Five to One” and bassist Phil Chen playing on “Roadhouse Blues.”

Aside from Danny Louis adding some New Orleans-style trumpet to “People are Strange,” the band seemed to take a tried-and-true approach to the Doors’ material; or at least it often sounded like it. However, arrangement-wise, you could hear differences if you listened close enough. The Doors never had a bass player, which left keyboardist Ray Manzarek to undertake an extra role by not only adding grooviness and eeriness, but also to imitate bottom. For this musical costume performance, there was an actual bass player in Jorgen Carlssen, leaving Danny Louis to primarily focus on the psychedelic sounds of Manzarek’s keyboard playing. Also, Robby solely handled guitar duties all those years ago with The Doors, but on this night, Warren joined him, adding vibrant layer of riffage and tasteful little licks where there were once open spaces, and occasionally taking a portion of a solo.

In the four decades that have passed since the death of Jim Morrison, Robby has found himself as part of a myriad of live acts and tributes concerts that celebrate the music of the Doors. With or without his former bandmates Ray Manzarek and John Densmore, he’s backed up or played alongside an array of musicians from all over the rock and roll spectrum; Eric Burdon, Alice Cooper, Eddie Vedder, Perry Farrell, Ian Astbury, Marilyn Manson, Scott Weiland, Slash, Widespread Panic, Particle and Rich Robinson, to name a few. These days, he can be found playing gigs with his own band, Robby Krieger’s Jam Kitchen. Regardless of whom he is playing with, his expressive tone and phrasing is as outstanding as ever. On this night with the Mule, his stirring guitar wizardry slithered through the dark and deranged trip that is “The End,” weaved fluidly through the drifter’s tale “Riders on the Storm,” and unleashed the kaleidoscopic rock and acid blues of “LA Woman.”

There was something extra special about this Mule-O-Ween. This was also the first time that a key player from the band being covered was sitting in, and they were doing it in the city that inspired the songs being played. Jim Morrison, and now Ray Manzarek, who passed away in May, are no longer with us, but a show like this was a reminder that there are still new experiences to be had with the music of one of America’s greatest and most revolutionary bands. The evening may have come to an end with “When the Music’s Over,” but the music is still alive and well in the hearts of many. Thanks to the dedication of bands like the Mule, who once again proved that there is no songbook that they can’t pull off, and Robby’s transcendental musicianship still shining all these years later, they won’t have to “turn out the lights.”

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