Separated by 47 miles, two highly revered rootsy acts — one leaning toward folk/soul, the other alt-country/Southern rock — ignited sold-out outdoor West Michigan venues on Friday.
EDITOR’S NOTE: It was another banner night for live music when it comes to national tours swinging through West Michigan on Friday. Local Spins was there to capture the action at two sold-out shows: Drive-By Truckers at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo and Amos Lee at Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids Township. Check out the reviews and photos.
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DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS AT BELL’S BEER GARDEN (KALAMAZOO)
Loud. Distorted. Poetic. Political. And wet.
The Drive-By Truckers brought their unapologetic liberal blend of Southern rock to a sold-out Bell’s Beer Garden Friday night, and despite sheets of rain coming down during the latter half of the two-hour set, they had the bulk of the crowd captivated all night as Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood took turns on lead vocals, trading back and forth throughout the performance.
The Athens-based rockers set the tone early, opening the show with Cooley’s “Ramon Casiano,” the lead track off their 2016 release, “American Band,” a record which Cooley describes on the Truckers’ website as one he wanted “to be a no bones about it in your face political album, (one) to piss off the assholes.”
Sticking with new material, they launched into Hood’s “Baggage” next, following a song that alludes to bad leadership, race and revolution with one that delves into the reality of a world, and a personal one at that, riddled with mental health issues.
The band then segued into another song about demons, Cooley’s “Gravity’s Gone” off of the 2006 release A Blessing and A Curse, before moving into “Days of Graduation,” and “Alabama” the first two of a handful of tracks played off the 2001 Double LP Southern Rock Opera that helped pave the way for a lengthy career for the alt-country rockers with 14 studio albums.
The Truckers further hit on “Opera” numbers “Women Without Whiskey,” “Let there be Rock,” “Ronnie and Neil” and “Shut Up and Get on the Plane” over the course of the show as lines such as ‘Whiskey’s’ “When I’m six feet underground, I’ll need a drink or two,” and ‘Plane’s’ “Living in fear’s just another way of dying before your time” resonating with the Beer Garden crowd.
Hood may have grabbed the crowd’s attention the most, however, prior to going into the American Band anthem “Ever South” when he broadcast the underlying stance of many of the songs in the band’s repertoire that “the Deep South is conflicted, and it’s beautiful, and it’s f***ed up.”
While the show was no doubt dominated by cuts off of “Southern Rock Opera” and some of the newer “American Band” material, other highlights included a cover of Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen” and “Decoration Day” originals “Sink Hole” and “Marry Me.” On the softer side of things, “Grand Canyon” from “Oceans” and “Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife” from “Brighter Than Creation’s Dark” also made a splash.
Louisiana’s The Seratones, led by vocal powerhouse AJ Haynes, opened the show. – By Ryan Boldrey
PHOTO GALLERY: Drive-By Truckers, Seratones at Bell’s Beer Garden
Photos by Derek Ketchum
AMOS LEE AT MEIJER GARDENS (GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP)
Friday night’s weather was slated to be hot but gloomy with a chance of rain, prompting Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park to move its concert ahead by 30 minutes.
Bailen took the stage around 6:30 p.m. before giving over the stage to the sharp-dressed Amos Lee. With black pants, a black jacket and sunglasses on despite no sun in sight, the folk singer assured the crowd that the evening would be just fine.
“A little rain ain’t gonna stop nothing right?” Lee said before lighting off his set with his thumping “Jesus.”
Though raindrops fell intermittently at the beginning of the night, any heavy rain held off for the crowd to enjoy a nearly two-hour set from the playful singer-songwriter, who had to express his appreciation for the beauty that can be found at Meijer Gardens.
“I walked around the gardens before,” Lee started. “Ya’ll come out here much? You should. If you don’t, it’s pretty ridiculous. If this was near my house I’d probably try to move in.”
Ranging from his first song “Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight” from his debut self-titled album to his timeless “Sweet Pea,” Lee roused the audience with his powerful, soulful voice and an engaging approach that had the crowd loose and comfortable. (See the full set list below.)
News that a couple near the stage had just gotten married earlier that day eventually made way to Lee, who took the opportunity to show his appreciation for his fans.
“What the hell are y’all doing here?” Lee joked before dedicating “Arms of a Woman” to the newlyweds.
Toward the end of his set, Lee again invited two more lucky concertgoers onstage to help sing his song “Black River,” before closing with an epic encore rendition of “Street Corner Preacher.” – By Adrianna Walker
PHOTO GALLERY: Amos Lee at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Anthony Norkus
(Courtesy of www.setlist.fm)
1. Windows Are Rolled Down
3. Bottom of the Barrel
4. Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight
5. Spirit / Down by the Riverside / Faith
7. Arms of a Woman
(Dedicated to Amy and Eric who got married today)
8. Baby I Want You / High and Dry
9. Tricksters, Hucksters, and Scamps
10. Won’t Let Me Go
11. Sara Smile / Pony
12. Cup of Sorrow
14. Sweet Pea
15. Black River
16. Street Corner Preacher / Game of Thrones theme song
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC