GOV'T MULE & FRIENDS | 10.18 | NYC

Gov't Mule and friends took over the Roseland Ballroom in New York City on Thursday, October 18 filling it's stage and dance floor with music evoking emotions of joy, sadness, release and hope personified in the upcoming recording The Deep End. A little over one year after losing Allen Woody, their bass man and brother, Warren Haynes, Matt Abts and a huge host of friends are releasing a homage to Woody's large presence in the music world. The tribute is, in fact, so large that it had to be put on two separate CD releases, and involved the filming of a documentary directed by Mike Gordon of Phish. Over 30 musicians added their prowess to the impossible effort of filling in Allen Woody's shoes. On the face of it, it seems apparent that everyone involved, particularly Warren and Matt, understood that this project had to include many musicians as Woody was well known and well liked. This concert brought together 10 of those musicians to bring us an evening of Mule that we'll never forget.

Before I get too gushy, I want to note that the Roseland Ballroom is not the best sounding venue, especially for bass guitar. I was dissappointed that the bass sound was good but not amazing for this performance, with it's "dance card" including some of rock's finest bassists. On a further note, I will not discuss the first set in great detail as it was standard Gov't Mule songs, well played, but worth a shortened description allowing time to spell out the mesmerizing second set in fine detail.

First Set
An 11 minute video clip of the many bass players who played on the recording was shown before the band took the stage. This clip introduced a documentary movie directed by Mike Gordon. Warren and Matt led Otiel Burbridge and Chuck Leavell through several well played tunes which were essentially a warm up. "Lay Your Burden Down" seems to be more poignant being played in NYC following the 09/11 attacks. They started hitting the groove during "Wandering Child" with Warren playing hot melodies and Chuck filling in perfectly. After welcoming the audience, Warren told us to "Pace yourselves, there's a lot more to come tonight". For "Down and Out in New York City" the first guest artists of the evening appeared. Rob Barraco on Keys and Tim Ries on saxophone brought some extra textures to the stage elevating this tune with some great solos. "Thorazine Shuffle" kicked the first set into over drive where the band remained for the rest of the night! The first set closed with a rousing rendition of "Mule" sandwiched with a boogified "What is Hip?" getting the crowd dancin' and groovin'!

Second Set
A shorter sampling of Mike Gordon's movie was played before the musicians stepped in showing short clips of Gordon interviewing the many bass players. After five minutes of the movie trailer, Mr. Gordon joined the Mule for a sweet 3 song set including the title cut "On the Banks of the Deep End." The lyrics explore the murky period surrounding death with Warren lamenting, "on the banks of the deep end/twisted as the river bends/searchin for a reason." The emotion of the tune and the beautiful playing of Mike Gordon welled up feelings of remorse and hope inside of me. Rob Barraco joined in on organ as the quintet had fun with Lowell George's "On the Way Down," playing it with a little reggae treatment highlighted with fine solos all the way around. All this was much to the delight of the grinning and booty shaking 3,500 or so music lovers inside the Roseland Ballroom.

Tony Levin took the bass man's position for a three tune set of new music featured on Deep End. Levin has played with Peter Gabriel and King Crimson to name a few, his musical prowess unquestioned as he laid down some impressive bass lines. "World of Confusion" is a slow starting ballad imbued with melancholy tones accented by the chorus, "World of Confusion/ getting darker everyday." "Washing of the Water" is another lament written with a more traditional blues style, featuring emotional bass lines, beautiful piano, and chilling yet soulful vocals from Warren. "River, oh River, river run deep/Bring me somewhere/let me get to to sleep/washing of the water/take it all away." To close his set, Tony Levin donned these 8 inch silver spikes on his strumming hand proceeding to blast out some nasty licks during the more upbeat "Same Price."

Warren then welcomed Stefan Lessard (Dave Matthews Band) calling him an un announced guest. Rob Barraco and sax man Tim Ries added to the mix on "Beautifully Broken" which sounds like a cross between the Beatle's "Happiness is a Warm Gun" and various Mule songs. Ries added a wailing solo with Lessard playing some smooth bottom end all topped off with Warren's screaming guitar. A loose exploratory version of "Lively Up Yourself" featured both keyboards on solos and some mighty fine jamming all around. Warren threw out some exuberant licks during a fiery solo climaxing with a huge crowd roar of approval and causing Matt Abts to look like he was simply beating the crap out of his drums. A short but sweet version of Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer" ended Mr. Lessard's duties.

Jack Casady, bass legend and fashion template, stepped up to deliver the next round of low end wizardry. "Slow Happy Boys" (deal with their frustration differently than every body else) was a slide guitar feast with Jack stompin' his feet on the stage and the keyboards clinking out honky tonk piano enticing the crowd to clap to the beat. Warren seemed more honored by Mr. Casady's presence than most of the crowd. He introduced "Voodoo Chile" by saying it was, "quite an honor to play this next song with Jack Casady, I'm gonna give you a little history lesson here... it was Jack who played on the original version of this." Of course, they ripped it up. Warren sang it better than most Mule versions I've ever heard, his solos building with intensity on top of the steady rhythm of Matt, Jack, and Chuck Leavell. The love of music shined from these guys as they relaxed and kicked it down playing the familiar Hendrix tune.

For the encore, Otiel Burbridge returned on bass to kick in some patriotic flavor with "Keep On Rockin in the Free World." Warren threw in a verse of "All Along the Watchtower" as the band played this "Rockin>>Watchtower>>Free World" medley with bright red, white, and blue lights shining on them. An inspired performance anchored down by Matt Abts, Chuck Leavell, and my vote for hardest working musician of the year: Warren Haynes. It was obvious how much work and love Warren, the musicians, the tech crews, all involved, threw in to this event. Gov't Mule honored their fallen brother with taste and courtesy while showing, through their performance, how difficult and differrent it is to create Gov't Mule music with out Allen Woody.

Kyle Holbrook
JamBase | New York
Go See Live Music!

10.18.01 | Roseland Ballroom | New York, NY
Comments: w/Oteil Burbridge
1st Set: Bad Little Doggie, Blind Man in the Dark, Lay Your Burden Down, Left Coast Groovies > Wandering Child, Life Before Insanity, Down and Out In New York City 1, Thorazine Shuffle, Rockin' Horse, Since I've Been Loving You > Mule > What Is Hip? > Mule
2nd Set: On the Banks of the Deep End 2+, Time to Confess 2+, Keyboard intro, On Your Way Down 3+, World of Confusion 4+, Washing of the Water 4+, Same Price 4+, Beautifully Broken 5, Lively Up Yourself 6, Cortez The Killer 6, Slow Happy Boys 7, Voodoo Chile 8, Gonna Send You Back To Georgia 8
Encore: Masters Of War ^> Rockin' In The Free World 9> All Along The Watchtower 9> Rockin' In The Free World 9>
Setlist Notes: 1 w/Rob Barraco on wurlitzer & Tim Reis on tenor saxophone; 2 w/Mike Gordon on bass; 3 w/Mike Gordon on bass & Rob Barraco on organ; 4 w/Tony Levin on bass; 5 w/Stefan Lessard on bass, Rob Barraco on wurlitzer & backing vocals & Tim Reis on tenor saxophone; 6 w/Stefan Lessard on bass & Rob Barraco on organ; 7 w/Jack Casady on bass, Chuck on organ & Rob Barraco on piano; 8 w/Jack Casady; 9 w/Oteil on bass & Rob Barraco on organ & backing vocals; + 1st time played; ^ just Warren

[Published on: 10/24/01]

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