Photo by David Piacitelli

Sometimes when a band invites a slew of guests to join them at a show it results in a disjointed performance that leaves fans cold. For the first show of moe.’s 20th Anniversary Tour, a benefit for World Hunger Year with proceeds going to the relief effort in Haiti, the jam rockers invited five all-star guests to help them celebrate: Marco Benevento, David Sanborn, Jeff Austin, Danny Barnes and Butch Trucks.

The show kicked off with just the quintet on stage for an energetic “Timmy Tucker” > “Bearsong” opening sequence in which the band was spitting fire. You could tell these guys were excited for what was to come and were making the most of their time onstage sans guests. “Timmy Tucker,” one of moe.’s signature songs, showed off the contrasting styles of guitarists Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey with each axe-man given ample opportunity to solo before the segue into Schnier’s “Bearsong.

Marco Benevento (keys) and Danny Barnes (banjo) were the first guests of the night for a spirited “Captain America.” Both Barnes and Benevento set the tone for stellar sit-ins with Barnes adding some nice twang to the typically rock-flavored song and Benevento adding layers of organ to the mix.

Photo by Jeremy Gordon

One of the coolest parts of the show is that moe. didn’t only invite the other musicians up to play on moe. Songs, they let each of their guests – with the exception of Sanborn – lead the band through one of their original tunes. First up was Barnes’ “Caveman” from his recently released Pizza Box album and it was clear moe. put in plenty of effort to nail this tune, as they did for the other covers they played at Roseland. Of particular note was Jeff Austin nailing the high harmony that was sung by Dave Matthews on Pizza Box.

Following “Caveman,” moe. invited Sanborn and Butch Trucks to the stage and kept Benevento on for a marvelous “Happy Hour Hero” that showed off Sanborn’s massive chops during a relentless sax solo. All three guests stayed out for the first-ever moe. cover of the Allman Brothers Band’s “Whipping Post” that ended the first set. Schnier took the first solo and did an incredible job of mixing some of his own signature licks with the legendary Duane Allman riffs from the Live at the Fillmore East version. Al employed a fuzzy, overdriven tone that would’ve made Duane proud. Sanborn and Garvey also delivered face-melting solos over the course of the sixteen-plus minute set closer.

When moe. returned for set two, they were joined by Benevento and Trucks for another Allman’s classic – “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” Once again Schnier stole the show with a well thought out solo that referenced the original while staying true to Al’s noodle-y style. Marco also made the most of his opportunity to lead the band, delivering a powerful organ solo on “Liz Reed” before a short drums segment that featured a duel between Vinnie Amico and Trucks.

The next segment featured moe. playing two of their originals along with Jeff Austin and Danny Barnes. “Shoot First” and “Waiting For The Punchline” were great choices that allowed Austin and Barnes to work their magic. One of the highlights of the show was the country-tinged hoedown that developed towards the end of “Punchline” that got a huge cheer from the fairly sedate audience. Both Schnier and Garvey had huge smiles as they engaged in some call-and-response sequences with Austin and Barnes.

Marco Benevento’s catchy “Real Morning Party” followed the pair of originals and moe. clearly was excited to play what Schnier called “one of those songs that you wake up in the middle of the night singing.” Garvey enjoyed playing Marco’s instrumental so much he kept on teasing the theme of the song throughout the rest of the set.

Photo by Jeremy Gordon

Next, it was Jeff Austin’s turn to lead the band and he made the wise choice of picking Yonder Mountain String Band’s “East Nashville Easter” (co-written by Austin and Todd Snider) which, again, the band nailed. After finishing the tune, Austin stepped to the mic and thanked moe. for all the support they’ve given him over the years and for inviting him to this fantastic event.

Once again it was time for a moe. original as Benevento stayed out with the quintet for a rollicking version of “Blue Jeans Pizza” that featured a sizzling piano solo from Marco. Closing out the set was a hot and heavy “Mexico” with Butch and Marco containing a number of Jessica teases. moe. did an incredible job of mixing covers and originals throughout the evening and there weren’t any train wreck moments – quite a feat considering the amount of guests and covers involved.

For the encore, moe. welcomed all of the evening’s guests – with the exception of Sanborn – for a well-received cover of The Band’s “The Weight.” Barnes had some issues with his verse, but the tune was played perfectly otherwise and was a fitting end to a fantastic evening for a worthy cause.