After a year long, pandemic-induced hiatus, Tedeschi Trucks Band returned to the digital stage last night from the comfort of their living room. When the behemoths of jam-rock stepped off the stage on February 29th at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, nobody could have predicted that the band wouldn’t play together again until almost a full year later.
The road warriors have carved their niche into the music world with intimate live shows and rowdy, multi-night residencies. When the band announced their return to the stage with the six-part Fireside Sessions, eager fans were flooded with relief. The massive band was cut down to a core four with the husband and wife tandem of lead guitarist Derek Trucks and divine vocalist/guitarist Susan Tedeschi leading the charge alongside bassist Brandon Boone and drummer Tyler ‘Falcon’ Greenwell.
To kick off the series, the core of Tedeschi Trucks Band welcomed the digital fanbase into their home for a stripped-down performance of some of their beloved tunes. Cozy vibes emanated from the glowing embers of the fireplace to the warm, wooden finish of their den. Paying homage to Butch Trucks and their roots in the Allman Brothers Band, the rare TTB quartet formation launched into Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” before getting back to the basics with Derek Trucks’ slide guitar introducing “Simple Things”. The rendition featured Trucks’ characteristic guitar wail and Falcon wielding mallets instead of drumsticks. The fan-favorite cut off their 2011 debut album, Revelator, epitomized the overall message of the band, which has only been reinforced by the pandemic and subsequent quarantine. The lockdown forcibly reminded the citizens of the world to try to be happy and to be grateful for our health, and the health of our friends and family (“Simple things / Make life worth living”).
Tedeschi Trucks Band – 2/18/21 – “Statesboro Blues”, “Simple Things” – Fireside Sessions
[Video: Tedeschi Trucks Band]
Keeping the musical medicine flowing, “Misunderstood”, off 2013’s Made Up Mind, cemented the front and back lines with Derek Trucks and Susan exchanging scorching guitar licks while Falcon and Boone maintained a tight-knit rhythmic pocket. Susan’s well-rested vocals shined with glorious light as Derek’s furious finger work wove intricate melodies around her. Their call-and-response evolved into a straight shred-off, with the duo exchanging scorching solos and slathering hot sauce all over the jam.
Staying on the same album, Susan’s powerful vocals revived a soulful take on “It’s So Heavy” as she switched guitars in favor of her trusted Telecaster. After the music ended, Susan voiced an inspiring message to “stay positive and keep trying our best” as she introduced the band—and the engagement’s titular fireplace—while Derek slugged some amber potable. The heartwarming relationship between Derek and Susan was on full display as they exchanged loving smiles and sheepish grins during a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Loving You is Sweeter Than Ever”’.
Before delving into Elmore James’ “The Sky is Crying”, Susan recounted a story that she heard from Duane Allman’s wife about a night that Duane took her to see “the greatest guitarist,” Albert King, and Duane was blown away, noting that she now thinks about Duane every time she plays the tune.
As the song broke down, Susan Tedeschi brought home the bacon with a bluesy and soulful solo before passing the baton back to Derek to whoop up a furious cauldron of home cookin’ with his glass slide. Boone and Trucks shared a laugh after the music ended, indicative of the good feelings of the entire night—smiles and laughs all around.
Next, Susan picked up her beautiful, autographed turquoise guitar for a bone-chilling performance of “Don’t Drift Away”. Although this is one of the band’s lesser-played tunes, they did play it at their last show before the shutdown at the Ryman Auditorium on 2/29/20.
After dedicating a short tribute to all the people who were taken from us by the coronavirus, Susan led the quartet through a take on the crowd-favorite, “Angel from Montgomery.” The composition was written by John Prine, who unfortunately was just one of the many musical legends that was taken from us during this terrible pandemic. As the tune wound down, Susan transitioned into its frequent TTB partner, “Sugaree’”, a joint composition written by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia. Susan returned to “Angel from Montgomery” to close out the performance with the lyrics “To believe in this livin’ / Is just a hard way to go.”
The intensity culminated with “That Did It”, a powerful vortex surrounding Susan’s vocals. At one point, Derek Trucks, who has heard his wife sing thousands of times, couldn’t keep the pleasant surprise off his face as Susan belted out the lyrics. It seemed that Derek, just like anyone who was ever heard Susan sing, was amazed that that thunderous voice could emerge from Tedeschi’s slight frame.
To close out the first edition of the Tedeschi Trucks Band Fireside Sessions, the quartet laid into an impactful ‘I Want More” that drifted into improvisational territory as Boone, Tedeschi, and Trucks exchanged sizzling solos. The interplay eventually evolved into the song structure of Carlos Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice” for a heated conclusion.
Susan thanked the audience, expressed her desire to play live music again soon, and wished everybody well before signing off as the credits rolled, accompanied by Leon Russell’s “A Song to You”.
With great relief and anticipation, Tedeschi Trucks Band welcomed their musically famished audience into their warm and cozy home to perform a purposeful selection from their repertoire with a slimmed down unit. Susan’s voice seemed well-rested from the long hiatus-—more powerful than ever, even—and Derek’s well-practiced fingers had no problem finding the melodic grooves of yesteryear. Boone and Falcon were an unstoppable force in the backline. Thursday nights at the Tedeschi/Trucks house will be a refreshing change of pace in this music-less world and have already become the best day of the week.
The pandemic has presented challenges for musicians as well as the audience of devotees. Reach out to an old friend. Check on one another. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is my most sincere hope that we can make it to the other side to dance and laugh in the sunshine while stomping our feet in the muddy lawns of our favorite venues. Until next week, stay healthy and well.
Setlist: Tedeschi Trucks Band | Fireside Sessions | 2/18/21
Set: Statesboro Blues, Simple Things, Misunderstood, Lovin’ You is Sweeter Than Ever, The Sky is Crying, Don’t Drift Away, Angel from Montgomery > Sugaree, That Did It, I Want More > Soul Sacrifice