It was a somber week and the mood going into Friday nights show was no better. In fact, the show even going on was suspect, as we heard that the various members of the band had to find rides to Colorado for the start of the west coast leg of the tour. Well, they made it and they gave those in attendance something to remember.
Let me begin by repeating an oft heard phrase, "Warren IS THE MAN"!
Not only did Warren and Co. show up to play, they showed up to give us the medicine we needed, a dose of really good old dirty rock and roll. I used to think Rock and Roll could change the world, these days I'm not so sure, but I do think it may do a lot to save us from ourselves.
The Denver Fillmore was about 2/3 full, meaning about 2000 were there to see what Gov't Mule was all about. I'd estimate the audience as being half full of Spreadheads there to see their favorite bass player, 1/4th to see Chuck and (old skool rock and rollers), the other fourth were dedicated Warren and Mule fans from the past. This show was decidedly a Warren show. He lead the charge the whole time. Not that the others band members were just sitting back, but when Warren was on stage, you knew who was in charge. There were no speeches to start the show, just that guitar sound fills your soul and speaks to your inner rockstar.
Set 1: Blind Man in the Dark, Lay Your Burden Down, Bad Little Doggie > How Many More Years, Out Of The Rain, Sco Mule, Fallen Down > The Other One jam > Fallen Down, Masters Of War +> Rockin' In The Free World
The first set started eerie and haunting. Perhaps to ease the mellow crowd into it. "Blind Man in the Dark" opened. Warren's electric guitar and Schools deep bass lines molded into a blanket of sound that covered us to keep us warm. Warren's voice on "Lay Your Burden Down" made the hair stand up on my arms, this would not be the last time that this would happen. "Bad Little Doggie," led beautifully into "How Many More Years," a Howlin' Wolf tune. Dave Schools' bass was not as out front as is his usual style. You could see he was very excited to be playing next to Warren and Chuck, and perhaps he was still a bit shocked that he was up there in the first place. Matt Abts drum playing was really impressive. His kit is fairly stripped down but he gets a ton of sound, nonetheless. At points his arms were waving so fast back and fourth they appeared as one blur of movement and of sound. "Out of the Rain," a Tony Joe White tune, (also wrote Maggot Brain for your WSP fans) was a treat to hear. Prior to this song, Warren and Dave switched up their respective axes, with Warren putting on his familiar looking wide body guitar. To me, this signaled that they were ready to lay it on really thick. All of these tunes allowed Warren to stretch his voice and the band to feel out each other.
Chuck Leavell, formally of the Stones, proved he was not resting on his laurels what so ever. His work on the electric piano was superb. He filled in nicely where needed and led the solos when given the chance. "Sco Mule" was a "new one" as Warren put it. It was really good. Sometimes when Warren is just Warren, he can get a little cheezy in a sort of southern rock ballad sort of way. But usually he summons the soul of all the dead blues greats and they fill his fingers and voice with all the history and pain and talent the world has ever offered. The new songs he played definitely had the remnants of whatever the last Seance Warren attended to write these tunes. "Fallen Down" was just beautiful. Warren screamed the lyrics, many of which in this first set seemed to mirror the pain we were all feeling from the previous week. Tension, release. The jam after the first verses built up and Schools reminded us that why he was on stage. The build up to the rumble of an extended "Other One" Jam was body moving. They went into the song so far I was certain they were going to play the whole thing, but after what seemed like a long time, the jam settled back down to "Fallen Down" again.
At this point, the set was decidedly DEEP. There were plenty of sick moments where Warrens little pinky finger would hit a note and you could feel the power. When he actually took an extended solo, shouts of "Damn Warren!" could be heard round the crowd. Prior to "Masters of War," Warren announced it as another new tune. WOW! If Warren is writing songs like this, I say keep it UP! What a great song. Heads were staring in disbelief with many jaws on the ground when Warren and Dave started playing off of each other. There were points were Warren would pull off some note and glance at Dave and Dave would grin from ear to ear and then throw it back at him. I've never seen Dave Schools thrash his hair because a sick guitar solo was about to kick in, but on this night, Schools' head was all hair, as his face seemed to be covered all night due to his neck and body shaking to the music and power that is Warren H! As the new song faded, Warren kicked in some Neil! "Rocking in the Free World" had every one of the 2000 or so music lovers jumping as high as they could. He could NOT of played a better song to close the set! MAN! Besides Neil, there are only 2 guitar players that still tour can pull that song off, I'm glad I got to hear the one with the most touching and ragged voice. The energy in the room was fairly still pent up until this dam release. The flood waters came rushing out in a patriotic rush that sent more chills up my spine. The place was fully rocking and rolling and everyone was smiling!
Set 2: Thorazine Shuffle, Rockin' Horse, Beautifully Broken, She Said She Said > Tomorrow Never Knows > Drums > Revolution +, Which Way Do We Run, 30 Days In The Hole, Creep, Mule
Encore: Keyboard intro > Soulshine
Setlist Notes: + 1st time played
The set break was nice as we exercised our rights as Americans to be civilly disobedient, and filled the air with smoke. The lights went down and the purple spots, once again, lit up the 6 crystal chandeliers signifying the start of the second set. Warren used this time to mention that he was really glad we all made it out to the show and thanks us all. Very understated to the end. He let the music provide whatever message he may have thought we needed to hear.
"Thorazine Shuffle," a Warren and Matt tune is a haunting and once again, deeply soulful tune that features as much rasp as Warren can muster in his voice. "Rockin' Horse," a Brother's tune I believe, was fully rockin, as this set would be more upbeat then the last. Another "new tune", "Beautifully Broken," also fit the mood and genre of the night.
Next it was time to give credence to the past masters of music. We got a melody of "She Said, She Said > Tomorrow Never Knows > Drums > Revolution." "Tomorrow Never Knows" seems to be a new jam band favorite these days, and the Mule gave it all the justice it deserves. Matt's drums started to build and I think if they did not give him an extended drum solo, one of his arms might have exploded. For a single drummer, it was one of the more impressive solos I've seen. The rest of the band snuck back and Warren started the ferocious notes that are the beginning of "Revolution" and once again, the place left its feet!
"You say you want a revolution
Let us all hope John and Paul were right about this. I believe that they were. From the sound of those that were screaming along with the words, others in attendance also agreed, "its gonna be alright!"
Well you know
we all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know you can count me out
Don't you know it's gonna be alright
They could have left the stage here and I would have been a happy camper, but it seemed as if they never wanted to leave the relative safety of that pedestal. "Which Way Do We Run" and "30 Days in the Hole" again, allowed Warren to flex his voice. The opening notes of Creep began very slow. The crowd began to recognize . . . something? Oasis? NO! Radio Head? You bet! For the uninitiated first time Mule goers, I think this shocked and delighted the most. Warren pulls this off like no other American blues guitar player can, perfectly. "What the Hell am I doing here? I don't belong here..." Tingles up the back of my neck, arms numb, feet worn but light. They closed the set with "Mule," one of about 8 tunes that were also played at Jazz Fest.
The encore began with Chuck on keys playing on stage by himself. He worked the scale up and down, giving us a bit of that Dixie Jazz sound before the rest of the band made their way back out and after an extended keyboard solo, they launched into "Soulshine," my favorite Warren song. "Let your Soulshine . . . its better then Moonshine, better then Sunshine, AND DAMN SURE BETTER THEN THE RAIN", Warren belted out. His message to us all and the world.
Now I don't know what it would be like to see a bunch of Mule shows in a single tour, but I can safely say, after 2 days of reflection, that was one of the single best ROCK AND ROLL show's I've ever witnessed! Warren is so the man and I though I've always LOVED him on stage with my other favorite bands (Phil, Phish, ABB, you name it he's been there). By himself is where his Soul shines and his greatness gushes. No glitz, no glamour, just rock and fucking roll. American music for Americans in need to hear something to heal some of what was lost this last week. I went in not knowing what I needed to get me back to where I was prior to Tuesday, but what I got was more then I could have asked for. Warren, Dave, Matt, and Chuck played their hearts out and everyone that stayed and allowed the music to do what it does so well, left feeling that yes, indeed, "It's gonna be ALRIGHT!"
JamBase Colorado Correspondent
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