Since Tedeschi Trucks Band‘s seventh annual residency at the historic Beacon Theatre, last night’s performance has been circled in red ink on their fans’ calendars. The Wednesday evening show, billed as “TTB & Friends,” would celebrate the band’s milestone 25th performance at the venerable Manhattan theater with a slew of surprise guests, in addition to the ever-impressive North Mississippi Allstars.
With three of six 2017 Beacon shows down and plenty of surprise “friends” already having stopped by, you couldn’t be faulted for wondering what the band had in store for their specially-billed sit-in-centric set. Of course, any skepticism about the band making their 25th Beacon show something special was fleeting. With each successive song, each successive guest, each successive jaw-dropping display of talent and showmanship, the band continued to exceed expectations…And that shouldn’t come as a surprise. They had done the same 24 times prior in this very spot.
The show began as with the regular lineup, each of the band’s twelve members in top form for the opening “I Want More.” Fan favorite “Midnight In Harlem” came second, as the band slowly and beautifully eased into the swaying tune behind a slow boil sax lead from Kebbi Williams and some added percussive texture from founding Allman Brothers Band drummer Jaimoe. Susan Tedeschi proceeded to sing the locally-appropriate ballad with angelic emotion, and Derek Trucks took it from there and ran with it, raining luscious leads down on the wide-eyed audience.
Derek isn’t about showmanship. He’s about sound. There is perhaps no guitarist in the world with a sound as piercingly unique as Trucks’, and he lets his skill speak for itself. More often than not, he’ll actively shy away from the spotlight, retreating to the back corner of the stage to listen intently to his tone or sync up with keyboardist Kofi Burbridge, bassist Tim Lefebvre, or drummers Tyler Greenwell and JJ Johnson, his back (and long golden locks) facing the audience. The undeniable stage presence that the band brings is shouldered by his better half, and Susan brings that unteachable charisma in spades. It’s the graceful yin and yang of the musical power couple, and the combination of the two was as potent as ever for this emotionally significant performance.
After another pair of cover staples gave Mike Mattison a chance to step out front for some impassioned lead vocals, Susan announced the first in a string of immensely talented guests: modern blues royalty Doyle Bramhall II. Doyle would stick around to supply guitar and vocals on four tunes, culminating with a cover of “The Sky Is Crying” the Elmore James blues standard famously recorded by Bramhall’s father’s longtime friend and collaborator, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Although there were two vaunted guitarists onstage for the tune in Trucks and Bramhall, it was Tedeschi who took the song’s centerpiece guitar solo, showing the boys who was boss with an impressive blues lead that was among the show’s most memorable highlights.
“The Sky Is Crying” w/ Doyle Bramhall II (via sgibson818)
As Bramhall left the stage, Susan welcomed Wilco guitarist Nels Cline to join in his place. With Cline in the mix, the vibe shifted from powerful soul to pulsing cosmic jazz. First, Cline led the band’s “bare bones” lineup (keys, bass, drums, and guitar), into outer space with a rendition of Miles Davis‘ “Ali” that eventually made landfall in “Let Me Get By,” the title track from their acclaimed 2016 LP. The song saw Derek and Kofi lock in for a thrilling guitar/keys jam as the majestic bird from the album cover was projected on the stage’s backdrop, and Cline’s whammy bar-wailing additions gave a new perspective on the horn-driven anthem, casting it in an amber hue–the musical equivalent of looking at the world through Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas-style yellow sunglasses.
“Ali” > “Let Me Get By” w/ Nels Cline (via sgibson818)
From there, the band had time for one more with Cline, and once again brought out Jaimoe for a roaring rendition of the Allmans’ “Ain’t Wastin’ No More Time,” which the band had premiered on the residency’s opening night. Once again, Cline shined throughout the performance, affirming himself as a standout facet of a standout evening of music. While a bevy of fantastic guitarists graced the stage on Wednesday night, none managed to match Derek’s wholly distinct tone with their own unique flavor quite as effectively and excitingly as Cline–who likely earned himself a whole crop of new fans in the process.
“Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” w/ Nels Cline (via sgibson818)
As Cline left to roaring approval from the musicians and fans alike, Susan continued the train of guests by welcoming Norah Jones for a cover of Bonnie Raitt‘s “Love Has No Pride.” As she explained, this was a song she had loved since childhood–so much so that she pleaded with Norah to learn it so they could play it together.
“Love Has No Pride” w/ Norah Jones (via sgibson818)
Once Jones exited, the remainder of the set was all TTB, leaving Mattison as well as vocalists Mark Rivers and Alecia Chakour to trade off belting out the song’s lead vocal parts. Finally, the show reached its climax–both sonically and emotionally–with a set-closing “The Storm”/ “Whipping Post” combo that is sure to get countless replays in the days and weeks to come. Derek was a monster throughout, thoroughly impressing the elated crowd with every note.
For the show’s encore, the band welcomed Luther Dickinson back to the stage for Blind Willie McTell‘s “Statesboro Blues,” the third live Allman Brothers staple of the evening. Luther remained onstage for the proverbial victory lap, as the crowd sang along to the hymnal “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.” As he had on a handful of occasions throughout the show, Carey Frank hopped back on keys with Kofi for the closing “Bound For Glory”–a beautiful sight to see after Frank held down Burbridge’s role all summer while he recovered from a heart attack in the Spring.
The heavy Allman Brothers connection that permeated the show felt particularly appropriate on this milestone night in the history of TTB. The raw emotion of the playing, the weight of the recent losses in the extended Allmans family–it all evoked bittersweet memories of ABB’s famous residencies at the Beacon over the years, with Derek playing guitar. The Beacon became a part of the Allman Brothers’ DNA in the their’s final years, just as much as the band became a part of the venue’s character. Now, 25 shows into their Beacon career, Tedeschi Trucks Band has forged a similar relationship with this performance palace on the Upper West Side, assuring that this circle remains unbroken.
You can watch a full-show playlist of fan-shot videos from the performance via YouTube user sgibson818 and check out a beautiful gallery of photos from Tedeschi Trucks Band’s milestone 25th Beacon Theatre show via Andrew Scott Blackstein:
Full Show Video YouTube Playlist:
TTB’s 7th annual Beacon Theatre residency concludes with a pair of shows this weekend. For more information, head to the band’s website.
SETLIST: Tedeschi Trucks Band (“TTB & Friends”) | The Beacon Theatre | New York, NY | 10/11/17
Set: I Want More, Midnight in Harlem*, Leaving Trunk^* > Volunteered Slavery*$, All the World**, Part of Me**, Lovin’ You**, The Sky Is Crying**, Ali^^ > Let Me Ge By^^, Ain’t Wastin Time No More^^*, Love Has No Pride$, I Wish I Knew, The Storm> Whipping Post
Encore: Statesboro Blues*@ > Will the Circle Be Unbroken*@ > Bound for Glory*@
* with Jaimoe (drums)
^ with Carey Frank (keys)
** with Doyle Bramhall II (guitar, vocals)
^^ w/Nels Cline (guitar)
$ w/Norah Jones on keys and vocals
@ with Luther Dickinson (guitar)