If the first night of the Christmas Jam was a tribute to the blues and all of its variations, the second night was all about soul. The night took twists and turns, but simple and beautiful R&B influenced music dominated from the opening notes of Haynes and Ruthie Foster's a capella "Grinnin' In Your Face" to the closing thunder of Gov't Mule, Ben Harper and John Paul Jones' breathless version of Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks."
|Ben Harper - Xmas Jam 2008|
The night started off in full swing with a rousing group jam of classic soul songs, including Ruthie Foster's perfect version of Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools" as well as head Drive-By Trucker Patterson Hood's version of Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'." With an all-star collection of sidemen (including Audley Freed, Karl Denson and Ron Holloway) vocalists Foster, Hood, Edwin McCain, and Joan Osborne traded vocal lines like Haynes and Derek Trucks did the previous night. It may be Christmas time, but the night felt like a valentine to that sweet soul music.
Steve Earle's set was vintage Earle: uncompromising, beautiful and spot-on. Through a barrage of his own songs ("Copperhead Road") and cover songs (Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody"), Earle showed why his voice may be the most original of them all.
Johnny Winter's appearance may have been the emotional high point of both nights. From the solemn and reverential introduction by Haynes to the standing ovation the audience gave at the conclusion, Winter's performance was near superhuman. Confined to playing guitar from a seated position due to health issues, the guitarist was still a lightening fast marvel, matching Haynes note for note on warp speed guitar duels on top of some of the raunchiest Texas blues in recent memory. Winter's body may have slowed down, but his spirit and playing were vital and perfect.
|Steve Earle - Xmas Jam 2008|
The night's odd men out seemed to be Coheed and Cambria. While their futuristic metal never quite jelled with the rest of the Christmas Jam lineup, the band played their hearts out for those willing to pay attention to their raging sea of sound. "It's like Rush, man!" shouted one air guitar playing forty-something over the din.
Michael Franti's acoustic performance could have served as a cooling off period after the grenade like blast of Coheed and Cambria, but Franti apparently didn't get the memo. Flanked by the seemingly ever present John Paul Jones on mandolin and Mickey Raphael (Willie Nelson) on harp, the singer turned the near capacity crowd into a handclapping, foot stomping army. Over the course of six songs, the steel structure of the Civic Center morphed from concert venue to campfire sing-a-long, and the joyous noise echoed to the roof. Franti's barefoot demeanor and acoustic guitar may have been the quietest act of the night on paper, but it turned into a thunderous chorus of love and hope.
Ben Harper and Relentless 7 had the unenviable task of following Franti, but somehow took the stomp and shout and added a backbeat to it for their performance. While the band's deep R&B roots were evident, they seemed to be fighting each other for their share of the groove. As they settled into a thunderous performance, the audience responded in kind.
Not to be outdone by the power of Harper, Gov't Mule took the stage with something to prove. Instead of playing a tight set composed of the band's best loved songs, the Mule instead relied upon guest spots to bring the spirit of collaboration to the forefront. The final five songs of Gov't Mule's set was a Zeppelin greatest hits assortment with John Paul Jones (there's that name again) on bass. From a bluesy and quite amazing "Since I've Been Loving You" to the aforementioned "When the Levee Breaks," the band lurched and powered through versions of Zeppelin classics that were so good it made listeners clamor even more for the much rumored reunion tour (come on Mr. Plant!).
|Warren Haynes & Derek Trucks - Xmas Jam 2008|
At the end of an exhausting and exhilarating weekend of music, Haynes stood at the edge of the stage to thank the audience. The Christmas Jam already has a reputation as one of the best nights of music around, year in and year out, and after this two night stand, it may be more than any other event can measure up to.
2008 CHRISTMAS JAM - NIGHT TWO SETLIST (12.13.08)
WARREN HAYNES & RUTHIE FOSTER: Grinnin' In Your Face
XMAS JAM BAND (Audley Freed, Jen Gunderman, Buddy Cage, Kevn Kinney, Fiddle Dave, Robert Kearns, Edwin McCain, Mickey Raphael): Blues on Top of Blues, Straight To Hell, Free Fallin (w/ Patterson Hood), Dreams To Remember (w/ Joan Osborne & Horns*), TCB (w/ Robben Ford, Joan Osborne, Eric Krasno & Horns*), Chain of Fools (w/ Ruthie Foster, Robben Ford, Joan Osborne, Karl Denson, Ron Holloway, Eric Krasno), When Something Is Wrong With My Baby (w/ Joan Osborne, Warren Haynes & Horns*), Tumblin' Dice (w/ Ruthie Foster)
* Karl Denson, Ron Holloway, Derrick Johnson, Craig Sorrells
STEVE EARLE: Copperhead Road, Christmas In Washington, My Old Friend The Blues,
Guitar Town (w/ Warren Haynes), Gotta Serve Somebody (w/ Warren Haynes, Steve Earle, Joan Osborne, Travis Tritt & Ruthie Foster), Brand New Companion (w/ Mickey Raphael & Warren Haynes)
GROUP SONG: Serve Somebody
JOHNNY WINTER: Paul Nelson Jam (Intro), Hideaway, Blackjack, I Used To Love Her But It's All Over Now (w/ Warren Haynes), Mojo Boogie
COHEED AND CAMBIRA: No World For Tomorrow, Gravemakers & Gunslingers, Mother Superior, Favor House Atlantic (acoustic), I Shall Be Released (w/ Warren Haynes), Welcome Home (w/ Warren Haynes)
MICHAEL FRANTI & JAY BOWMAN (FRED ELTRINGHAM ON DRUMS): Love Don't Wait (w/ John Paul Jones, Robben Ford & Mickey Raphael), Sweet Little Lies (w/ John Paul Jones, Robben Ford & Mickey Raphael), All I Want Is You (w/ John Paul Jones, Robben Ford, Mickey Raphael & Eric Krasno), Hey World (w/ John Paul Jones, Robben Ford, Mickey Raphael & Eric Krasno), I Got Love For You (w/ John Paul Jones, Robben Ford, Mickey Raphael & Ron Holloway), Say Hey
BEN HARPER & RELENTLESS7: Number No Name, Shimmer, Lay There, Better Way, Fly 1 Time, Keep It Together, Dressed In Black, Boots, Up To You Now, Good Times, Bad Times (w/ John Paul Jones)
GOV'T MULE: Southern Man (w/ Patterson Hood), Lively Up Yourself (w/ Karl Denson & Robben Ford), Simple Man (w/ Travis Tritt), Livin' Lovin' Maid (w/ John Paul Jones), Since I've Been Loving You (w/ John Paul Jones), No Quarter (w/ John Paul Jones on keys & Audley Freed), The Ocean (w/ John Paul Jones on bass, Ben Harper & Mike Barnes), When The Levee Breaks (w/ Ben Harper & John Paul Jones on bass)
|Encore - Xmas Jam 2008|
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