The Tedeschi Trucks Band has made a habit of playing the Orpheum Theatre whenever an album-supporting tour winds through Los Angeles. Yet, there was a decidedly different feel to the 12-piece ensemble’s show downtown on a Thursday in mid-May.
Sure, the two sets were freshly filled with tracks from their new album, Signs, including “I’m Gonna Be There” and the title track to start the second set and the powerful “Shame” popping up shortly thereafter. And yes, there were more cameras than usual in the building to capture the magic for those watching at home through Nugs.net.
But the biggest difference of all was a rather somber one. This marked the first LA show for the Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks-led outfit since the tragic passing of keyboardist Kofi Burbridge earlier this year. His loss is the closest to the band’s performing core, but hardly the only one within the Tedeschi Trucks circle in recent years. From Gregg Allman and Leon Russell to Colonel Bruce Hampton and Derek’s uncle, Butch Trucks, the band’s long list of confidants and collaborators shrunk considerably and sadly during the creation and release of Signs.
The resulting raw emotions lent an entirely more somber and, in some respects, more powerful quality to TTB’s performance. Even songs from records past—from Revelator’s “Midnight in Harlem” to Made Up Mind’s title track, “Do I Look Worried,” “Idle Wind” and “Part of Me”, took on a different quality and meaning given all the group has been through.
The same could be said for TTB’s litany of covers. With Willie Nelson’s “Somebody Pick Up My Pieces,” Bob Dylan’s “Down in the Flood” and “Lord Protect My Child” and the Four Tops’ “Loving You is Sweeter Than Ever,” the group did its part to honor some of the music world’s living legends. And with Elmore James’ “The Sky is Crying,” the Allman Brothers Band’s “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’,” Allen Toussaint’s “Get Out of My Life, Woman,” and Joe Tex’s “Show Me,” TTB seemingly paid homage to the greats who’ve come and gone, and on whose timeless shoulders the band still stands.
None of this is to suggest that TTB has at all diminished as an act. For one, Gabe Dixon was (and still is) no slouch on the keys, as difficult as it may be to attempt to fill Kofi’s shoes.
Moreover, through these hard times, the extraordinary musicians who comprise TTB remain as masterful as ever, and now bring with them an even more powerful depth of emotion to color their spectacular displays of artistry.
The drum duet from Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson on “Idle Wind” was that much more grounding, the brass solos by Kebbi Williams on saxophone, Ephraim Owens on trumpet and Elizabeth Lea on the trombone that much more stirring. The range shown by Alecia Chakour and Mark Rivers on vocals felt that much wider, and the rasp on the mic from Tedeschi and Mike Mattison seemed to have more of a reason—as if they were weeping along with the audience.
As for Trucks, his singular guitar work was once again spellbinding. But where once the contrast between his more feathery finger work and his bluesy overdrive was more a matter of happenstance, in this case, it took on the timbre of tough times and how music can help to pull us through them, one heart-wrenching note after another.
All told, these challenging months and years have not bowed TTB. If anything, the earthly departures from the band’s world appear to have given it ample reason to not just carry on, but to honor the memory of their loved ones gone and inspire the living to reach for more impassioned artistry.
Tedeschi Trucks Band’s tour continues tonight, May 18th, with a performance at Mesa Amphitheatre in Mesa, AZ. For a full list of upcoming dates, head here. Scroll down for a photo gallery from Thursday’s performance, courtesy of Brandon Weil.
You can watch a pair of pro-shot videos from the performance below courtesy of Nugs.tv.
Tedeschi Trucks Band – “Do I Look Worried” [Pro-Shot]
Tedeschi Trucks Band – “I’m Gonna Be There” [Pro-Shot]
Setlist: Tedeschi Trucks Band | Orpheum Theatre | Los Angeles, CA | 5/16/19
Set One: Do I Look Worried, Part of Me, Don’t Drift Away, Somebody Pick Up My Pieces, High & Mighty, Down in the Flood, Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever, The Sky Is Crying, Idle Wind
Set Two: I’m Gonna Be There, Signs, High Times, Lord Protect My Child, Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’, Shame, Midnight In Harlem, Get Out of My Life, Woman, Show Me
Encore: Made Up Mind