Words & Images by: Jake Krolick
Drive-By Truckers/Lucero/Langhorne Slim :: 04.03.10 :: The Electric Factory :: Philadelphia, PA
The workingman's plight has long been subject matter for musicians. From Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons" to Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang," artists have been spilling their guts about day-to-day troubles for years. Philadelphia residents understand these lessons as well as any area in the country. Last Saturday evening, as the city sat quietly poised for Easter Sunday, a mass of working stiffs shuffled into The Electric Factory to put their work week behind them. We exchanged coffee mugs for whiskey bottles as we took in the music performed by a man from Langhorne, PA, a band from Memphis, Tennessee, and one of the most celebrated workingman's bands ever.
Langhorne Slim's boundless energy and showmanship were less of a precursor to the songwriting skills of Lucero and Drive-By Truckers and more of a peek at another version of life's struggles. Slim, born Sean Scolnick, was not just dancing and smiling during his performance. The strum of his guitar coupled with his quick vocal switches lifted his third album's title track "Be Set Free" from a bland love story to an engaging song. Flanked by his band, The War Eagles - Jeff Ratner (bass), Malachi DeLorenzo (drums) and David Moore (banjo) - they formed a healthy force to reckon with. The band rattled and shook the crowd with "Restless." Too bad so many were still getting into the venue and missed Slim's set. The crowd finally took notice of their lively performance as Moore and DeLorenzo connected with a fury on "Cut It Down" off Electric Love Letter. They created a whirlwind with Moore's aggressive banjo plucking and DeLorenzo's patient yet bombastic combination of rim shots and bass kicks before Slim bent to his knees to rock "I Love You So Bad."
It's pretty widely known that there have been times when Lucero was too intoxicated to perform a decent show. This was not the case Saturday evening as the band demonstrated just how amazing they could be when firing on all cylinders.
Lucero's music chews on you like a Southern punk version of The Hold Steady with its spiral of horns and gruff sounds. Just like The Hold Steady, they sing to appease the heart and mind of the common man. Lucero is chock full of wild fellows, but the soul is singer-songwriter-bandleader Ben Nichols. He radiates outlaw grace with a voice that could influence an uprising. His songs are pushed through gritted teeth, back alley poetry about the people he lost or longed for and the lifetime of booze that he's consumed. Nichols crooned into the microphone all evening like a less showy version of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones' singer Dicky Barrett. Their set was nothing short of amazing as Nichols, drummer Roy Berry and gray bearded guitarist Brian Venable looked outward and raged against the slings 'n' arrows of life. Lucero didn't miss a note as they rattled off 13 songs that ran their illustrious career. The set spanned from the brick of pain "Kiss The Bottle" off The Attic Tapes to the highlight of their set, a positive, horn-filled "Smoke" that linked Todd Beene's pedal steel with a gaggle of huffing and puffing horn players. Simply put, they slayed their set.
|Ben Nichols - Lucero :: 04.03 :: Philly|
The Drive-By Truckers have just released The Big To-Do (JamBase review). This album is somewhat different than previous efforts. The songs lack a certain raw feeling many have grown accustomed to, and it features many more melodic moments. However, it still contains the soul of the Drive-By Truckers and it shines in its ability to carry on where the other albums have left off. There are plenty of seedy stories of deception, strippers and cheaters, all on some form of drug or religion. Even if the music is starting to bend into a more harmonious form, the lyrical edge remains evident, as in this nugget from "This Fucking Job."
Workin' this job is a kick in the pants
Workin' this job is like a knife in the back
It ain't gettin' me further than the dump I live in
It ain't gettin' me further than the next paycheck
The Electric Factory was like being in one giant black megaphone. The front row was blasted by the Drive-By Truckers vinyl-only release "You're Woman Is A Living Thing" as we prepared for the onslaught of the louder-than-the-Lord Southern rockers. Wild-eyed enthusiasm manifested itself within leader Patterson Hood as he stepped onstage, while guitarist Mike Cooley unabashedly came out smoking a cigarette. You can see a clear difference in these two personalities that drive the band, but it's those variations that make the Truckers click. Behind them was a floor-to-ceiling backdrop of the Wes Freed circus train that adorns The Big To-Do album cover.
|Neff & Hood - DBTs :: 04.03 :: Philly|
They devoted the first half of the set largely to new album, and while several of the new songs haven't quite acquired the fire of older material, Hood and Cooley ground out "This Fucking Job" in fine form. Both seemed to find a connection with the audience and showed us that they were simply not ready to let us settle for the guillotine of conformity. Hood's Southern drawl came out strongly, and for the first time during the performance so did his nonchalant ability to make us feel better by really hanging on certain lyrics. It's this bit of human emotion that helps us tell The Man to fuck off instead of just lining up to have our heads chopped off.
The DBTs are one of those bands that sometimes need a push to get the show in gear. Enter Cooley on "Sink Hole" and "Self Destructive Zones." His axe work was bloody loud and awe-inspiring. As he saluted the crowd with his guitar at the edge of the stage, you could hear the band starting to turn even sweeter. Drummer Brad Morgan shook the giant bass drum to life behind Cooley. It was somewhere around this point in the show that some jackass started screaming at the sound guy because he felt that the sound was too loud for his taste, though his discomfort was more likely due to too much alcohol because a few minutes later he was involved in a melee with a group of fans and security. However, Hood was loose by this point, and if he was drinking, we damn well better be, too. He split apart "The Company I Keep" and started teasing James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend" before telling us to pour ourselves a cocktail because the night was going to be long and glorious.
New ones "Daddy Learned to Fly" and "Birthday Boy" was a finicky back-to-back combo. You could hear a more instrumental side working its way out of the Drive-By Truckers on both songs, which probably had a lot to do with their time as a backing band for Booker T. Jones. It's surprising how much patience they had on "Daddy Learned to Fly," and I'd give all that timing credit to Cooley's searing guitar work and Jay Gonzalez's keyboard accents. The sound combination of these two had a similarity to late '90s Widespread Panic with Michael Houser and JoJo Herman. They built it up just enough to make our skin boil, though "Birthday Boy" didn't translate live as well as it does on the album. No matter, the set ended on a high point with Hood crooning on a cover of Eddie Hinton's "Everybody Needs Love."
|Drive-By Truckers :: 04.03 :: Philly|
As with most Drive-By Truckers shows, the encore was thick and hearty. Hood had started the evening by thanking Lucero for opening for them and reminisced about how the Truckers opened for them in 1996 in Memphis. This deep adoration culminated in a six-song encore with Lucero's Todd Beene sitting in the entire time on pedal steel. One of my favorites from The Big-To-Do kicked off the encore as bassist Shonna Tucker started "You Got Another" by herself at the piano. Her elegant take on the tale of a jilted lover destroyed all that I thought I knew about the Drive-By Truckers. Somewhere during Tucker's soft piano beginning the song turned into a full sonic head-fuck as Beene slid off hollow notes that linked with Cooley's squealing guitar.
The band followed this pleasing but odd choice with some boisterous fan favorites, including "18 Wheels of Love" and "Let There Be Rock," where Hood's preaching dominated extended versions of each. His words came off as Southern tinged Arlo Guthrie style tales. He changed the words of "Let There Be Rock" into an advertisement for their opening spot for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers this summer. He sang about his first band, Breakdown, and substituted Tom Petty in for Molly Hatchet. But, it was John Neff who ran away with the song as he rocked us with an electric sitar. Gonzalez had us dancing to his banging piano work on Southern Rock Opera's "Shut Up And Get On The Plane" before Cooley ended the show in high style performing a touching rendition of "Angels and Fuselage." With a final mighty whack of the giant bass drum, Morgan ended the show.
Lucero set list
Intro > Sounds of the City, That Much Further West, Can't Feel a Thing, Raising Hell, Slow Dancing, Sixes and Sevens, Goodbye Again, Kiss the Bottle, Mom, Smoke, Tears Don't Matter Much, I Can Get Us Out of Here
Drive-By Truckers set list
You're Woman Is A Living Thing on PA, After The Scene Dies, Get Downtown, (It's Gonna Be) I Told You So, This Fucking Job, Sinkhole, Self Destructive Zones, The Company I Keep, 3 Dimes Down, Daddy Learned To Fly, Birthday Boy, Girls Who Smoke, Eyes Like Glue, The Living Bubba, Zoloft, A Ghost To Most, Everybody Needs Love, Puttin' People On The Moon
E: You Got Another, 18 Wheels Of Love, Zip City, Let There Be Rock, Shut Up And Get On The Plane, Angels and Fuselage
Drive-By Truckers Tour Dates :: Drive-By Truckers News :: Drive-By Truckers Concert Reviews
JamBase | Big Top
Go See Live Music!