Friday, September 28, 2001
It's reported that Keith Richards once said something to the effect that "the best band in the world is playing in a club somewhere tonight and the chances are, most of us won't be there." Thursday night the club was Kansas City's Beaumont Club and the band was Gov't Mule.
Gov't Mule's decision to carry on in the wake of bassist's Allen Woody's death in August of 2000 has led survivors Warren Haynes on guitar and vocals and Matt Abts on drums into some interesting territory. Not content to merely replace the outstanding bass player and continue as they were, the power trio has reinvented itself as a quartet.
In addition to rotating the bass spot between Dave Schools of Widespread Panic, and Oteil Burbridge of the Allman Brothers Band, the band has added Chuck Leavell, known for his work with the Allman Brothers, Sea Level and the Rolling Stones.
Though not set for release until October 23rd, Gov't Mule is already touring in support of their upcoming release, "The Deep End vol. I," the first of two CD's featuring 25 guest bass players including Chris Squire, Jack Casady, Mike Watt, John Entwhistle, Bootsy Collins, Phil Lesh, Flea and Jack Bruce, along with a host of other guest musicians. The second volume is due in April with an interim DVD documentary produced by Mike Gordon of Phish.
With Burbridge on bass, the quartet played two hour-plus sets of their outstanding blend of blues, soul, funk, jazz and heavy rock that comes on hard and loud, but just below the furious surface holds tremendous depth and realms of subtlety.
The addition of Leavell's keyboards relieves Haynes of sole responsibility for providing the music's melodic focus, and the necessity of providing sonic space for piano and organ allows him to develop his musical ideas with a much lighter touch. Gov't Mule is even playing a bit quieter in this mode. Songs like "Fallen Down," already one of Haynes more delicate ballads takes on added beauty with Leavell's piano solo.
Uniformly outstanding performances of older songs like "Blind Man In The Dark," "Thorazine Shuffle" and "Painted Silver Light," were born anew with the quartet. The new material from the upcoming releases shined.
"Sco Mule," a song recorded with jazz guitarist John Scofield began lightly, built to a dramatic, Santana-like jam, morphed into funk and finally jazz featuring Burbridge scat singing along with his bass. "Beautifully Broken" is perhaps the most haunting ballad Haynes has written.
The cover versions Gov't Mule performed were joyous, uplifting high points in the show. Closing the first set, the band positively tore up Tower of Power's "What Is Hip?" In the second set Leavell's piano and vocals were featured for a cathartic, powerful performance of Les McCann & Eddie Harris' "Compared To What?" and late in the second set the band performed Dave Mason's "Feelin' Alright."
As an encore Gov't Mule brought things back down to earth with a plaintive performance of "Soulshine."