Words by: Allie Goolrick | Images by: Willa Stein
19th Annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam :: 12.15.07 :: Asheville Civic Center :: Asheville, NC
Saturday night's annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam saw the audience looking a little more weathered than in previous years, but the relatively older crowd was treated to what might have been the best installment of Haynes' 19-year old hometown event yet. A lineup of Baby Boomer heroes Peter Frampton, Jackson Browne and Bruce Hornsby had met with grumbles from the 20-something set, but you'd never have known it from the sold out crowd's reactions. This year also featured Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, G. Love, Mike Farris, Stockholm Syndrome and the regular cast of Jason Isbell, Dave Schools, Audley Freed and Kevn Kinney. This year's Jam boasted a lineup so packed with soul-stirring performances that it inspired a sense of reverence. Welcome to the Church of Warren.
| Haynes & Frampton :: 12.15 :: Asheville, NC|
At 7 p.m., the crowd was finally ushered inside from the cold and rain into the Civic Center, which was decked out in Christmas lights and holiday cheer. Haynes kicked off the marathon show by reminding us of the Jam's ultimate cause - to benefit Habitat for Humanity - before powering through "Soulshine." Bruce Hornsby, Mike Farris and a full gospel choir joined Haynes for a rousing, near-spiritual rendition of "Trouble" that set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Gov't Mule opener Grace Potter and the Nocturnals followed with their girl power Southern rock. With her sexy, bluesy vocals and the moves to match, Potter was all charm, strutting around onstage in a mini-dress and knee-high white go-go boots. But it was her vocal chops that really wowed the audience as the band grooved through an all too short set that probably left everyone in the audience a fan.
Stockholm Syndrome took the stage next with a set of harder-edged rock driven by Eric McFadden's brilliant guitar licks. Haynes and McFadden jammed together on set-ending sing-along "Couldn't Get It Right" by '70s Brit-poppers Climax Blues Band before wrapping up the first third of the Jam.
| McFadden & Joseph - Stockholm Syndrome :: 12.15|
The only slightly gray Jackson Browne took the stage with an acoustic guitar for the mellowest, most serious set of the night. "I love this kind of show because you never know who you're going to run into," he said. Backed by drummer Wally Ingram (Stockholm Syndrome) and keyboard legend Bernie Worrell, the set had the warm and melodic lean that Browne has perfected. Never one to shy away from politics, the singer-guitarist opened with Christmas lament "The Rebel Jesus" and continued to make his views on war known with a moving cover of Dylan's "Desolation Row" and his own "Drums of War." The Asheville crowd certainly seemed to be on Browne's side as Haynes joined in for a stirring rendition of well-known freedom tune "Patriot."
Hornsby followed Browne's act with a more upbeat set of his own piano tunes and some pretty impressive covers. With saxophonist Ron Holloway, Warren Haynes and Bernie Worrell backing him, Hornsby's set seemed the most improvised of the evening. Hornsby visually conducted his band from behind the piano – the kind of spontaneous treat the Christmas Jam is known for. "Fortunately Numb" drew roars but the real highlight came at the end. Clad in a long coat as if he was minutes from departing, Jackson Browne joined Hornsby for the first verse of Don Henley's "End of the Innocence" before exiting.
| Jackson Browne :: 12.15 :: Asheville, NC|
After an impromptu one-song performance by Kevn Kinney, Garrett "G. Love" Dutton performed a bouncing hip-hop-laced set that only seemed a little out of place amongst the '70s/'80s revelry. And the audience didn't seem to mind. G. Love saw a variety of cameos including fiddler Dave Muhlethaler, Jason Isbell, Bernie Worrell, Andy Hess and, of course, Haynes. With his shiny high-top shoes and a little bit of swagger, G. Love was a refreshing jolt of energy - the perfect way to lead up to the long-anticipated appearance of Peter Frampton.
Frampton didn't disappoint. Despite having short, cropped white hair in place of his iconic long, curly hair from his heyday, Frampton seemed spry as ever as he took the stage with Gov't Mule's Danny Louis and Andy Hess and guitarist Audley Freed. With a constant smile on his face, Frampton barreled through energetic rockers like "Four Day Creep" and Humble Pie tunes "Shotgun" and "I Don't Need No Doctor." A talk box hinted at the upcoming "Do You Feel Like I Do," which for the older fans was a trip down memory lane and for the younger ones a once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear the legend perform his legendary song. But, despite the crowd's super sonic reaction to "Feel," Frampton had another trick up his sleeve.
Usually, the last headliner before Gov't Mule marks the end of the Jam, but Frampton wasn't going to let the evening go out without a bang. The highlight of the entire evening came when the familiar strains of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," drifted from the stage. There are few that can do the late George Harrison's song justice but Frampton proved he's one of them. The audience responded by loudly singing along, and their hero stepped back from the mic and let them carry the tune.
| Warren Haynes :: 12.15 :: Asheville, NC|
Despite the fact that it was creeping toward 2 a.m., a large part of the crowd stayed to hear Gov't Mule's show-ending performance. The Jam had come full circle since Haynes' "Soulshine" opener, traveling from good ol' Southern blues to acoustic folk to hip-hop and Brit-rock and back again. Haynes kept it simple, playing through Gov't Mule tunes with Worrell, Mike Barnes, Freed, Holloway and a cameo by Col. Bruce Hampton before bringing Frampton back for a cover of Ray Charles' "I Believe To My Soul."
Despite some initial hesitancy by younger Christmas Jam fans, Haynes managed to again pull off a stellar show. Where previous Jams have catered to 20-somethings with acts like Trey Anastasio and Dave Matthews, this year gave everyone a chance at some serious nostalgia and proved to younger audience members that their parent's heroes can still rock & roll. It's clear that Warren Haynes has got this Christmas Jam thing down to an art, and Jam fans will likely follow him in any direction he chooses to go.
Continue reading for more of Willa Stein's Christmas Jam photos...