For the second year in a row, the Warren Haynes-led Mule fired up devotees with blues-infused favorites and singular covers. (Photo gallery, video)
Pandora’s online version of “Gov’t Mule radio” brings up the usual suspects of peripherally related, blues-hued rock acts: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, The Black Crowes and, of course, The Allman Brothers.
But “friends of Mule” who’ve witnessed guitarist-singer Warren Haynes and his exceptional cast of musical comrades kick up their heels live know darn well there’s nothing quite like Gov’t Mule.
This Southern-fried supergroup brews its own, inimitable, tasty stew of soulful, muscle-bound strains – a diverse musical feast that changes nightly with the band’s bottomless pit of songs.
And so it was on Thursday, when the band returned to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park on a breezy, gorgeous evening, delivering two sets covering 2 hours and 22 minutes, and not surprisingly, just 15 lengthy songs (depending on how you count medleys).
RIVETING MULE STANDARDS AND SURPRISING COVERS
For those figuring Haynes, drummer Matt Abts, keyboardist Danny Louis and bassist Jorgen Carlsson would play what amounts to a warm-up for their appearance this weekend at Tennessee’s humongous Bonnaroo festival, it was far more than that (even if it didn’t include a star guest like guitarist Donald Kinsey who appeared at last year’s Meijer Gardens show).
The crowd of 1,300-plus (why in tarnation wasn’t this a sellout?!?) certainly wasn’t shortchanged as Haynes and company showed their affection for the amphitheater with Mule faves (“Thorazine Shuffle,” “Beautifully Broken” “Scared to Live” “Bad Little Doggie,” “Frozen Fear”) that showed off Haynes’ unfathomable ability to slide seamlessly from blues to Southern rock to jazz to reggae to prog-rock with tasteful aplomb.
But it may have been the band’s always unpredictable choice of covers that really sealed the musical deal, pumping out Led Zeppelin’s “Dyer Maker,” Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” and even The Hollies’ “Bus Stop” (not to mention part of the “Mission Impossible” theme and other familiar melodies they weaved into various songs).
It’s what makes Mule, well, Mule.
Here are some highlights from the four-star show, with a Photo Gallery by Anna Sink and video snippets:
Perfect, sun-drenched weather, with a light wind wafting through the amphitheater. The crowd was populated with clusters of tie-dyed, Deadhead-loving “older hippies,” but there were a fair number of younger jam-band devotees on hand, too, not to mention the usual gaggle of slack-jawed guitar geeks.
THE NIGHT’S BIG MOMENTS
“If Heartaches Were Nickels” midway through the second set boasted drop-dead gorgeous blues licks from Haynes, while the show-closing “Bus Stop” turned a 1966 pop hit into a psychedelic, slow-cooking, soulful masterpiece. But, really, the band was in stride from the opening salvo of “Thorazine Shuffle.”
“We’ve got a beautiful night and a beautiful day and beautiful folks and beautiful music. What else do you need?” – Warren Haynes
“They do a different set every night. They’re just phenomenal musicians. You never know what crazy covers they’re going to play.” – John Ford, of Chicago, who’s seen Gov’t Mule 20 times and taped Thursday’s show along with a few other Mule disciples.
GOV’T MULE: THE LOCAL SPINS PHOTO GALLERY (JUNE 13)
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Copyright 2013, Spins on Music
A veteran journalist and former music writer for The Grand Rapids Press, John Sinkevics is editor and publisher of LocalSpins.com, profiling regional artists and commenting on West Michigan's music scene. He hosts "Local Spins Live" on News Talk 1340 AM in Grand Rapids at 11 a.m. Wednesdays, and the hour-long "Local Spins on WYCE" at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE-FM (88.1), both spotlighting regional artists.
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