On July 3rd, the 2017 Wheels of Soul Tour brought The Wood Brothers, Hot Tuna, and Tedeschi Trucks Band to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Upstate New York. Beautiful weather greeted the tie-dyed and star-spangled crowd, which ranged from young children to older hippies. Outdoor venues like SPAC are the perfect sanctuaries for eclectic and soulful music and the attendees were pleased to see Hot Tuna bring their unique blues to the stage as they opened up the festivities.
For a band that traces its roots back to 1969, Hot Tuna can still bring the heat. Not only did they tackle songs from their wide catalog and long career, but they also showed the audience that they still have fun doing it. Jack Cassady stomped around the stage totting a bass that is about the same size as him while Jorma Kaukonen lit a fuse and transformed his electric guitar into a firework. The aging crowd seated inside the pavilion cheered as Jorma commented that the last time they played SPAC was in 1989 for the Jefferson Airplane reunion tour. The band members thanked their friends Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks for inviting them on such an incredible tour and the short set came to a close.
The Wood Brothers have solidified their position as one of the most soulful Americana bands on the rise right now, making them the ideal meat in the Wheels of Soul sandwich, especially on the eve of the 4th of July holiday. The crowd at SPAC doubled in size as the trio opened with “Keep Me Around” from their critically acclaimed 2013 album, The Muse. The first time I saw the Wood Brothers was at a downtown Saratoga pub called The Parting Glass, where they happened to be playing on their first ever tour. Over a decade later in the same New York town, they played “Atlas” again, but this time they were on a much larger stage in front of a much larger group. As their popularity grows exponentially over the years, their down-to-Earth attitudes, familial connection and passionate writing remains the same.
The particularly energetic “Tried and Tempted” and “Snake Eyes” encouraged Chris Wood to show off some of his killer dance moves. Oliver Wood gave a nod to the red, white and blue with “American Heartache” off their most recent studio album, Paradise, leading Jano Rix to take over on keyboard for “Luckiest Man.” The fan-favorite tune lead to a sing-along and reminded the crowd how lucky we are to be in the land of the brave of free. Oliver dedicated “Postcards from Hell” to all the artists on the Wheels of Soul tour and a fast-paced cover of “Ophelia” finished off the set.
[Video by Sean Roche]
Headlining the joyous evening was the group that started the Wheels of Soul Tour three years ago, the Tedeschi Trucks Band. This year’s installment proves to be the most ambitious to date and we can only hope the Wheels tradition continues. The 12-piece thunderous blues band opened with “Anyday” to the delight of their die-hard fans. “Don’t Know What It Means” allowed Kebbi Williams to explode on the fiery saxophone solo. In order to cool the place down, Susan Tedeschi softly took the vocals for “Anyhow” and “It’s So Heavy” allowing Derek Trucks to delicately weave his electric guitar into the mix. After a slow pair of songs, vocalist Mike Mattison took the lead for “Get What You Deserve,” a rocking gospel influenced tune that got the pavilion pulsating.
[Videos by Sean Roche]
The long drum intro to “Let Me Get By” was one of the many highlights of the set and allowed several different members to showcase their talent. The spontaneity of TTB is why fans continue following them around the country and when news broke that their beloved keyboardist, Kofi Burbridge had suffered some medical difficulties, fans highly anticipating the Wheels of Soul Tour were heart broken. The replacement, Carey Frank, showed that he was qualified to take Burbridge’s place and appeared to wow even Susan, who commented how incredible his playing has been after only three nights on the tour. Frank took an additional funky organ solo during “Leaving Trunk,” but Susan one-upped him with a blazing guitar solo proving that the ladies can do it too. Susan’s energy continued to rise during her emotional vocals in “I Pity the Fool” and the set ending and appropriately placed “I Want More.”
[Videos by Sean Roche]
With Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks’ deaths still heavy on their minds, TTB encored with a heartfelt “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” off the Allman Brothers Band legendary album, Eat a Peach. Trucks has had a lot of practice playing Allman Brothers material, yet Susan needed the lyrics sheet added to the stage setup to avoid any flubs. Gregg Allman wrote the tune for his brother Duane Allman after he passed away and now Derek got to play it for Gregg and Butch which was a truly touching passing of the torch. A short and soulful “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” set up the final song of the evening, “I’ve Got A Made up Mind.”
[Video by Sean Roche]
Check out the show audio, as uploaded by rocksuitcase:
The three bands that graced the stage on the eve of Independence Day are just getting started! Tickets are still available for many of the show scheduled on the Wheels of Soul Tour, which is bound to cover just a little more ground from now until August 2nd.
Setlist: Hot Tuna | Saratoga Performing Arts Center | Saratoga Springs, NY | 7/3/17
Serpent Of Dreams, Living Just For You, Talkin’ Bout You, Come Back Baby, In The Kingdom, Roads And Roads &, Hit Single #1.
Setlist: Wood Brothers | Saratoga Performing Arts Center | Saratoga Springs, NY | 7/3/17
Keep Me Around, Atlas, Never and Always, Tried and Tempted, Snake Eyes, American Heartache, Luckiest Man, Postcards from Hell, Ophelia
Setlist: Tedeschi Trucks Band | Saratoga Performing Arts Center | Saratoga Springs, NY | 7/3/17
Anyday, Don’t Know What It Means, Anyhow, It’s So Heavy, Get What You Deserve, Ball and Chain, Let Me Get By, Leaving Trunk, I Pity The Fool, I Want More
E: Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More, Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Made Up My Mind
[cover photo from TTB Facebook]