The temperature was in the 90s at showtime, but nothing was hotter than Warren Haynes’ guitar work as Gov’t Mule made its Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park debut on Thursday night.
With a boisterous, hard-drinking crowd of 1,704 on hand, the Mule played two sets covering nearly 2-1/2 hours, saving the best for last with a special treat unleashed during the encore: Renowned blues guitarist Donald Kinsey, a Chicago transplant who lives in the Grand Rapids area, joined Haynes for dynamic duets.
Read my full review at GRNow.com here, along with more photos. And check out the video snippets below.
As a bonus, here are some Spins on Music highlights from Thursday night’s steamy amphitheater show. And since it was the hottest night of the year thus far, let’s go with a heat wave theme.
How hot was it?
It was so hot, I thought Haynes’ guitar fretboard might burst into flames. Yes, he was on fire, all night long, as was the rest of the band – Matt Abts on drums, Jorgen Carlsson on bass, and Danny Louis on keyboards and guitar.
But Haynes is also a masterful singer and songwriter, delivering catchy riffs with that Southern rock-meets-the-blues-funk-and-jazz vibe, while weaving in musical nuggets like Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” and Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary.”
Here are some of Thursday’s hottest moments:
- “Captured” at the end of the first set showed Haynes at his most soulful, followed by the boogie romp of “Kind of Bird,” which had the guitarist swinging from Carlos Santana-like textures to a Jimi Hendrix-style growl.
- “I Think You Know What I Mean” ignited the crowd with help of a Led Zeppelin detour, but also featured Haynes’ gospel-hued vocals.
- The band was at its thunderous peak on “Brand New Angel” in the second set. Of course, the amps weren’t the only things that were smoking Thursday night, if you catch my drift (and catch a whiff of what was wafting through the amphitheater).
- The two-song encore with Kinsey and Haynes trading solos was an unparalleled event in the history of the Meijer Gardens’ amphitheater. Haynes is as impressive as any guitarist who’s ever played the venue (which is saying a lot, considering that Buddy Guy, Peter Frampton, George Benson and others have graced the same stage).
(So far, Meijer Gardens has seen it all in the first month of the 2012 concert series: a blustery, wet and cold opener with B-52s, a rollicking, dance-filled Meijer Gardens debut by reggae’s Jimmy Cliff, a pleasant but shockingly short homecoming show by Al Green, and now, a steamy-hot, jam-happy musical gallop by Gov’t Mule. Tonight, Emmylou Harris makes her Meijer Gardens debut, followed by Rufus Wainwright on Sunday and Huey Lewis on Monday. Ticket info here.)
And I must say, I was really tickled to see Kinsey get introduced by Haynes in front of the Meijer Gardens crowd: He’s a truly legendary guitarist who’s played with the likes of Bob Marley and The Kinsey Report, and West Michigan’s lucky to have him aboard.
Kinsey will also be my special guest at 10 a.m. Tuesday on Local Spins Live (on News Talk 1340 AM WJRW) and will perform during Wednesday’s Fourth of July celebration at Ah Nab Awen Park in downtown Grand Rapids. Give him a listen.
It’s like an encore to the encore.
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, with a preview at 9:30 a.m. Wednesdays on WLAV-FM (96.9). He also hosts the hour-long "Local Spins on WYCE" at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE-FM (88.1).
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