It was a night for celebration, as we are just two days from the official release of the newest, and most defining, Tedeschi Trucks Band record. Though fans have already been introduced to the ten tracks, and most have chosen to stream Let Me Get By over the last week (read our review), the songs live portray the band’s best version yet. With Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks leading the 12-piece ensemble, their most recent compositions accentuate the entire band and the undeniable strength of its individual parts. The collective soul is a spirit, a complete force to be reckoned with.
With every seat being the best in the house, the band emerged for a night of unforgettable music.
The party started immediately on an uplifting note with “Don’t Know What It Means,” a song Susan describes as the “closest to the vibe of an after-hours hang on our tour bus.” She continues, “This song started with a melody from J. J. Johnson, one of our drummers…Then the band got ahold of it, and our newest member Tim Lefebvre laid down an amazing bass line. You can really feel the personality of the band in the group vocal.” This, being one of the new songs, offers a fresh perspective to the band’s persona. Just when you think the happy tune is over, the horn section comes back and slaps you in the face with another 30 seconds or so of funky dismissal. Kebbi Williams‘ saxophonic exitude is particularly blistering here.
“Don’t Know What It Means”
Staying on the highest note possible, the band transitions straight into “Keep On Growing,” a Derek & The Dominoes cover. One can’t help but think to themselves in this moment that their heads might explode if the power couple’s sound grows any greater, but then they play “Midnight In Harlem” (in Harlem) and everyone just about falls out of their seats with an appropriately pleasant feeling of being in the right place at the right time.
“Midnight In Harlem”
Then, they bring Doyle Bramhall II (who Susan later described as one of her favorite guitar players, and who opened the night with his strikingly soulful band) for a song he co-wrote, “I Want More,” also off the new album. With origins of doo-wop and neck-breaking time signatures, the song is anthemic by nature. With flawless instrumental communication between Derek and Doyle, the jam extended into a dense atmosphere of bluesy unforgettable bliss, led by Kofi Burbridge on the flute.
The first breath became available during Leonard Cohen‘s “Bird On A Wire,” then it was quickly taken away by Tedeschi’s incredible chorus, accompanied by the harmonies of Mike Mattison, Mark Rivers, and Alecia Chakour. Like church, in the heart of New York City’s cultural renaissance, the reminder presented itself perfectly, “to be free.”
Mike Mattison stepped to the front for another new song, “Right On Time,” a Broadway-esque, show number with Ephraim Owens’ trumpet and Elizabeth Lea‘s trombone drenched in old-time jazz influences and modern day swank and sophistication. While Trucks’ slide guitar playing was obviously prominent, Alecia Chakour was also spotted playing a ukulele, proving just how much detail goes into every composition. A single nod between band-members can change the directional attitude of everything, and immediately it did with a flip of the chin from Derek leading into “Sticks & Stones,” a Joe Cocker tune from 1970’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen, a record TTB has been covering extensively since their Lockn’ performance last summer.
“Right On Time”
Again, the mood changed when the three backing vocalists surfaced the stage for a poetic, harmonic, gospel chorus led by the strength of Mark Rivers. With lyrics echoing, “I’m on my way to heaven anyhow”, the ceremonial hymn perfectly segued into “Anyhow.” With an opening cry from Susan, the “I’m-gonna-do-what-I-want” attitude of this song is humbly accompanied by the uplifting harmonies of a tight horn section and the wandering confidence of Derek’s guitar.
This welcomed “Bound For Glory” off the band’s 2011 Revelator album with a breakdown DT shakedown, presenting guitar licks so painfully incomparable that the present moment feels like the best moment yet… until the title-track of Let Me Get By proved itself as the most definitive track of their entire songbook. Tedeschi Trucks Band is by far the most fulfilling band on the road, and by all means should the waves part in their presence. With an impressive entrance from J. J. Johnson on drums, the jam was heavy, and Kofi’s flute was once again delightfully sprinkled over the twelve people on stage, each showing exactly what they’re made of.
“Bound For Glory”
“Let Me Get By”
Susan gracefully takes over the spotlight for Bobby “Blue” Bland‘s blues-heavy “That Did It,” then proves herself the most bad-ass person in the room. Her deep, swampy, “I may be a wife and mother of two, but I’ll f*** you up” feisty attitude, and equally impressive guitar playing, erupted the room with appreciation and applause. It was refreshing to see Derek playing rhythm behind his very talented other half for an entire song, but then all but he and the rhythm section exited the stage for a new nameless jam they’ve recently introduced. Strange, jazzy, jammy, tribal, Asian, rock and roll: the interlude was a melting pot for all musical influences of the drums, bass, and seemingly effortless guitar playing, catapulting them straight into ‘The Storm’. The brewing set the tone for what would be the lengthiest, most blistering song of the night. The storm was one you could feel throughout your entire body, and it was heavier than ever.
The historic, small Apollo Theatre felt like the biggest room in the world by the end of that set. The craving for more was undeniable, and so when the 12-piece soul stirrers returned the stage, it was comparable to the surprise dessert at the end of a great dinner, sent as compliments from the chef. The band locked in for “It Ain’t Easy.” Featured on David Bowie‘s classic 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars, the side one rocker was actually never performed live by David Bowie, but was most professionally executed by TTB, with special nod of appreciation to bassist Tim Lefebvre, who provided his bass work for the entirety of Bowie’s recently-released album Blackstar.
“It Ain’t Easy”
The encore performance continued with a Beatles cover introduction, “Within You Without You” leading perfectly into their new song, “Just As Strange.” The tunes mix together flawlessly, bringing an old school feeling to a new school vibe. Praying the night will last just a little bit longer, the band shifts back into high gear for the final piece. The Sly and The Family Stone cover has been making its rounds for the last two weeks with “I Cannot Make It.” For that, we are grateful. Though the night was now over, the swag was contagious and it is with certainty and agreement that the night’s performance was the best the band had ever sounded as a whole. Let Me Get By is available on Friday, January 29, 2016.
“Within You Without You > Just As Strange”
“I Cannot Make It”
Setlist: Tedeschi Trucks Band at The Apollo Theater, Harlem, NY – 1/26/16
Set: Don’t Know What It Means, Keep On Growing, Midnight In Harlem, I Want More, Bird On A Wire, Right On Time, Sticks & Stones, Anyhow>Anyhow, Bound For Glory, Let Me Get By, That Did It, Jam>The Storm
Encore: It Ain’t Easy, Within You, Without You/Just As Strange, I Cannot Make It
[Videos courtesy of Scott Gibson & Sean Roche, and Photos from Marc Millman Photography]