Tedeschi Trucks Band proved the existence of life after death June 20 in Ohio, as the 12-piece killed with song after song after song and the audience came back with increasing enthusiasm each time.
The 2019 edition of Tedeschi Trucks’ Wheels of Soul tour rolled into Ohio and while there is no denying the value in this packed night of music – which ran from 7 to 11 p.m. on a steamy, Southwestern Ohio night – it was the headliners that slayed listeners time and time again.
From her exhortation to get your hands up in the air on the opening “Laugh About It” to her ad-libbed you can’t put babies in cages and think it’s OK on Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “I Pity the Fool” late in the set, frontwoman Susan Tedeschi was a raspy storm of fire throughout the one-hour, 45-minute performance. And when she took the occasional guitar solo she was equally incendiary, demonstrating once again that she’d be the best guitarist in any band that didn’t include her husband, the outwardly reserved but has-to-be-heard-to-be-believed slide guitarist Derek Trucks.
In fact, when Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr, no slouch himself, joined TTB for its encore – more on that and Blackberry’s own set later – he occasionally looked dumbfounded as Trucks whipped up his fellow musicians and the nearly sold-out house with screaming line after screaming line.
In addition to Starr’s band, the evening also featured Shovels & Rope in the opening slot. Shovels & Rope, which features the husband-and-wife team of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst sporting matching By Blood Ts to promote their latest LP, were most impressive when each managed to play drums, harmonica and keys simultaneously. During their 45-minute middle-show set, Blackberry Smoke played tracks that resembled Mick Taylor-era Rolling Stones whipped up with a bit of Gov’t Mule, offering a performance that was gaging and full of triple-guitar, double-drumming verve.
Still, there was no denying it was the TTB’s night. hether Trucks was cuing solos from – and trading call-and-response lines with – his band’s three-piece horn section on the jazzy jam inside Joe Tex’s “Show Me” or Tedeschi was alternating lead vocals with its three-voice choir on “Signs/High Times,” TTB showed the value in cramming as many people as possible on to a stage as two drummers, keys and bass teamed with the other eight musicians to create a joyful sound that never came close to a wreck and always achieved liftoff.
New keyboard player Gabe Dixon – who stepped in for the late Kofi Burbridge – harmonized beautifully with Tedeschi on a stripped-down (no singers, no horns) rendition of Willie Nelson’s “Somebody Pick up My Pieces” and the full band simply exploded as Trucks played the opening notes to Derek and the Dominos’ “Keep on Growing,” on which Tedeschi and the also-raspy (this is a good thing with these two) Mike Mattison had a delirious time singing their respective asses off.
The encore lasted 30 minutes and took off like a shot when Trucks played the opening notes to “Statesboro Blues,” the Blind Willie McTell number he played countless times in the Allman Brothers Band. Tedeschi sang it from the original male perspective and when she, Trucks and Starr began their guitar-based conversation, it seemed the set couldn’t get any better.
But then, more of the openers filtered on stage and the resulting two-keyboardist, three-drummer, quadruple-guitar threat launched in to a 20-minute workout of Sly & the Family Stone’s “Sing a Simple Song,” which segued into “I Want to Take You Higher.” With that, the Rose Music Center at the Heights achieved liftoff in one of those rare in-concert moments when everything – the heat and humidity, exhaustion, any worries about everyday life, even the audience and venue itself – melts away and it’s just the concertgoer and the music as one.