Jamming three-plus hours of jamming into Monday’s sold-out show at Meijer Gardens, Gov’t Mule and Galactic created the kind of upbeat, festival-styled milieu for which they’re known. Review, photos.
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Attending a Gov’t Mule show is as much about the experience as it is about the music.
Both jam bands in their own way — Galactic with its funky New Orleans soul and Gov’t Mule with its Southern rock-fueled blues — revel in this audience-involving live romp, stretching out magnificently on song after song while fans bob, banter, boogie and imbibe to the satisfying, chest-thumping riffs and generally cheerful milieu.
Listening to their recorded music on Spotify through laptop speakers — or even through a high-end audiophile system — simply doesn’t do justice to this immersive, mood-altering, festival-styled vibe.
It helps, of course, that after more than 20 years on the road, Gov’t Mule rocks and jams as hard and as impressively as any road warrior band, led by singer and longtime Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes.
It also helps when after more than two hours of such a rocking display on a lovely August evening, Haynes brought out two regional guitar heroes — Saginaw’s Larry McCray and Gary’s Donald Kinsey (who lived in the Grand Rapids area for years) — for a brilliant, uplifting encore that included Mule’s trademark “Soulshine” and a sweet rendition of “The Thrill is Gone.” (See videos below.)
It’s the second time in three appearances at Meijer Gardens that Mule has brought Kinsey on stage as a guest, so there’s clearly a commendable commitment by Haynes to spotlight guys in the trenches who deserve more attention.
SOULFUL OPENING BY GALACTIC, CAREER-SPANNING SET BY GOV’T MULE
That all made Monday’s Mule “experience” as genially captivating as any, especially with a one-hour opening set by Galactic, which upped its funk ante with dynamic singer Erica Falls who, among other things, lent her uber-powerful voice to a reinvented, groovy rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” The longtime Galactic touring vocalist even joined Gov’t Mule later in the evening for a fun cover of Rufus & Chaka Khan’s “Tell Me Something Good.”
With a large cadre fans — many wearing the usual Phish and Allman Brothers T-shirts — immediately rising to their feet for the opening blues-rock flourish of Gov’t Mule’s “Bad Little Doggie,” Haynes, kayboardist Danny Louis, bassist Jorgen Carlsson and drummer Matt Abts wasted precious little time cranking through two decades of Mule material, including several songs from the band’s new album, “Revolution Come … Revolution Go,” including the title track, “Stone Cold Rage” and a haunting take on “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground.”
Indeed, the band often didn’t even pause between songs and, at one point, cobbled together a nearly 20-minute instrumental jam that highlighted Haynes’ impeccable, genre-spanning guitar work and Louis’ stunning keyboard prowess.
Considering the early start time for Monday’s concert — Galactic took the stage promptly at 6 p.m. — you really couldn’t jam more music into a Meijer Gardens show than these bands did. (To be exact, 3 hours and 15 minutes of music.)
Still, it really wasn’t enough for the musicians or the fans, even though Mule played right up to the 9:45 p.m. Meijer Gardens curfew as Haynes had promised.
“You know we would play all night if we could,” Haynes said just before leaving the stage.
Rest assured, diehard Mule fans would have stayed all night, too.
PHOTO GALLERY: Gov’t Mule, Galactic at Meijer Gardens
Gov’t Mule photos by Anna Sink
Galactic photos by Brian Haik, John Sinkevics
VIDEO: Gov’t Mule with special guest Larry McCray
VIDEO: Gov’t Mule wsgs Donald Kinsey and Larry McCray
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC