The Word kicked things off last night at Higher Ground in Vermont. Being on the road with The Word is an honor and true joy - just like the sounds they create. The spirit here on the bus is almost like overnight camp. We're all new to the bunk, and the early August summertime energy injects a sense of playfulness in all. These guys are all outside of their "day jobs" getting to play in a brand new band... everything is fresh and fun as hell.

The Word cut their debut record in five days without even rehearsing. This is their first tour, first real gig (besides the tune-up on June 27), and they STILL haven't rehearsed... they barely did a soundcheck. All five musicians [John Medeski, Robert Randolph, and Chris Chew, Luther Dickinson, and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi All Stars] are totally carefree. Like it's nothing, like this music, this bond between them is so ancient that they don't even make a setlist. In fact, they barely talk about the music at all. Out on the road with The Word is about being in the moment. When it's time to hang and chill, these fellas hang and chill hard. When it's time to play... it's time to pray.

On this first day of August, two-thousand one, The Word exploded onto the scene, into this world, for all of us to cherish. The set list:

1. Untitled. The 10th track off The Word is the first one of the night, the first official live song of Word history. Loose, thick, stretching out, warming up... feeling each other out, like turtles reaching their necks to see who's making the sounds. Bassist Chris Chew is a GIANT sea turtle and all the little babies fall in line behind him.

2. Without God. Robert's signature tune. This is the song that brought him to us all. He takes full control, owning this tune with The Word right behind him.

3. Joyful Sounds. This fourteen minute celebration of love, life and sheer joy. Robert takes em' to church. There were extended solos by all and rumor has it that God made three surprise appearances in the haze above the audience.

4. Blood on That Rock. John Medeski takes a long solo to get things started with this one. Robert creeps into it slowly, lurking in the shadows. Enter Cody, Chris, locking in the power. Luther roars into the mix confidently strutting with his bass lines. Robert takes it higher... higher... higher... and then drops out. Echoes linger as shadows of all. Then Robert cries out "March on, found!" It was profound as they rolled on as one with Cody clearing the path. Medeski's towing the line, and twenty minutes later, the blood is still on the track.

5. Keep Your Lamp Trimmed & Burning. Gritty, dirty, and raw. The Word might be the best rock and roll band of this millenium!

6. Call Him By His Name. Prayer, tragedy, grief, joy... cleansing. This song is like laughing and crying at the same time. Feelings of belief, faith, and conviction linger within as Cody (drums) takes it all home.

7. At the Cross. Country, mountains, and streams... after-all, this is Burlington in the summer, we're all at the cross.

8. Waiting on My Wings. This takes over. A 22 minute opus that is powered by pulsing bass. Cody takes on the electric washboard and ROBERT moves over to drums. These guys are having so much freaking fun - it's a secret that everybody now knows. Medeski solos and Robert gives us all a drum lesson... He doesn't want to give it up either. So Cody drops the washboard and takes his brother's guitar. It became a 20 minute mountain-jam madness. Jaws were dropping, both on stage and in the audience.

9. The March. The band decides to cover a Robert Randolph tune as he takes the mic getting the crowd in a call and response: "WORD?" "WORD!!!". Opposed to the Family Band's style, The Word's version of "MARCH" is lower, thicker, and groovier. Medeski puts his signature solos all over this one and turns it into a Word tune after all.

10. I Shall Not Be Moved. At this point the party is in full force and words simply cannot describe The Word.

11. I'll Fly Away. You will too...

12. ENCORE: Voodoo Chile. Come on... please... forgetaboutit!

Post show there were autographer seekers, hot girls in sneakers, smoke, shakes, and giddy-joy amongst all those still mulling in, out, and about the Higher Ground. Something profound just went down and we were all feeling the after-shocks as we trickle back onto the bus and head towards Boston. How much do these guys love this music? Only thirty minutes into the ride and the band and crew are all huddled up at the front of the bus watching a video of the show... all in complete awwwwwe! With HUGE smiles and laughter echoing down the road. I can't wait until tommorow!

Otis D. Catt
The Man With The Word

[Published on: 8/2/01]

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