Last night, Gov’t Mule kicked off their “Come What May Tour 2017” (and the SummerStage season) with a performance at the beloved venue in the heart of New York City’s Central Park along with The Chris Robinson Brotherhood. While the show was already notable as the de facto start to a busy summer for the band and the venue, those facts pale in comparison to the true significance of the evening: Gov’t Mule’s 2000th show.

While the impressive milestone was acknowledged only briefly by guitarist/vocalist Warren Haynes during the performance, the band came out swinging with a pack of surprises up their sleeves. On this sweltering May night in the Park, Haynes, drummer Matt Abts, keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Danny Louis, and bassist Jorgen Carlsson affirmed what they had proven time and time again over their previous 1999 shows: that the Mule is one of the most electric live rock bands on the road today.

The set featured a healthy helping of songs from the band’s upcoming studio album, Revolution Come… Revolution Go, including “Stone Cold Rage” (featuring percussionist Bobby Allende) and “Revolution Come… Revolution Go.” The show also featured the live debuts of “Sarah, Surrender,” (with Allende and background vocalists Jasmine Muhammad and Lauren Dawson), road-weary lament “Traveling Tune” (with Allende), and anthemic power ballad “Dreams & Songs” (with Muhammad and Dawson).

By the time the band kicked into “Game Face,” they were fully locked in, taking the Dose track on an improvisational ride that touched on The Beatles‘ “Norwegian Wood,” Weather Report‘s “Birdland,” and the Allman Brothers Band‘s “Mountain Jam” before returning the the song’s main theme. The teases continued with “Time To Confess,” as Warren infused the 2002 original with bits and pieces of the Grateful Dead‘s “Shakedown Street” and Paul McCartney‘s “Band on the Run.”

After informing the audience that the band had a blues itch that needed scratching, Warren welcomed a pair of special guests for a run through blues standard “Key to the Highway”: CRB guitarist Neal Casal and A-list movie star Bruce Willis, who offered up some skilled harmonica accompaniment (as he has been known to do from time to time). The red-hot “Key to the Highway” proved to be one of the most memorable moments on an evening rich in notable highlights. You can watch fan-shot video of Bruce Willis and Neal Casal’s sit-in on “Key To The Highway” below, courtesy of YouTube user Sean Roche:

Riding high on the energy of the star-studded blues romp, the band dug in on the new album’s gritty title track before welcoming frequent collaborator Steve Elson to add some sax to the set’s final two numbers: a run through Billy Cobham jazzy 1973 tune “Stratus” and fan-favorite original “Mule.” The evening ended with the emotionally weighty live debut of “Dreams & Songs,” a towering yet touching anthem that fit perfectly in the encore slot. You can watch videos of “Revolution Come… Revolution Go,” “Stratus,” and “Dreams & Songs” below, courtesy of YouTube user Sean Roche:

Warren has spent much of the last couple years leading a variety of projects, paying tribute to legends of old and dreaming up new ways to educate the masses about their musical heritage. However, in a recent conversation with the veteran guitarist, he assured us that the next year or so “is all about the Mule.” With a great crop of new material and a renewed focus on the band, Gov’t Mule is not to be missed as they make their way around the country this summer.

For a full list of upcoming dates, or to purchase tickets, head to Gov’t Mule’s website.

SETLIST: Gov’t Mule | Central Park SummerStage | New York, NY | 5/17/2017 

1 Set:
World Boss 
Brand New Angel
About To Rage
Rocking Horse
Birth Of The Mule
Whisper In Your Soul >
Stone Cold Rage (with Bobby Allende)
Sarah, Surrender (with Bobby Allende, Jasmine Muhammad & Lauren Dawson; First Time Played)
Traveling Tune (with Bobby Allende; First Time Played)
Forsaken Savior
Game Face (with Norwegian Wood, Birdland & Mountain Jam teases)
Banks Of The Deep End
Time To Confess (with Shakedown Street & Band On The Run teases)
Key To The Highway (with Bruce Willis & Neal Casal)
Revolution Come, Revolution Go
Stratus (with Bobby Allende & Steve Elson)
Mule (with Bobby Allende & Steve Elson)

Dreams & Songs (with Jasmine Muhammad & Lauren Dawson, First Time Played)

[Cover Photo via Andrew O’Brien]

[Video h/t – JamBuzz]