Tedeschi Trucks Band at the El Rey Theatre, 7/18/11
Imagine a woman swallowed Mariah Carey and a chainsaw, and then belted out all the rough, raw power notes that got shredded up inside. Susan Tedeschi is something like that; a raspy, thunderous vocalist who sings with all her might, managing to rile us up and break our hearts all within one set. She's a woman. The real kind. With pretty blonde hair and a Bonnie Raitt sensibility, she's the kind who makes other women want to trade in their pinchy stilettos for cowboy boots. The kind who makes a man forget about the ditzy 22-year-old who didn't call him back last week. She's a cleaned-up version of what Janis Joplin might have become, had the poor thing pulled herself together.
But last night wasn't all about Susan. It was about Tedeschi Trucks Band--the newborn love child created with her guitar god husband Derek Trucks. Both have enjoyed successful music careers -- playing with the likes of Eric Claption and Herbie Hancock, as well as recording solo albums -- but they've put all that aside for now to make a record together and take it on the road. You could describe both Trucks' and Tedeschi' sounds as a soup of bluesy southern rock, and that remains the foundation of their new group, though they splash in a little bit of funk and a whole lot of jammin.'
The El Rey was packed with enthusiastic supporters ready to cheer on the collaboration -- albeit from their seats, nicely laid out in rows. The act drew a bit of an older crowd, but within the sea of white hair one could tell this was a room full of people who'd been rockin' forever.
TTB kicked things off with "Bound for Glory," laced with not one but two guitar solos from Derek Trucks. His playing sometimes invoked the holy spirit -- inspiring many air guitar knockoffs -- and other times kept it low and slow like a rolling river, as on "Midnight in Harlem."
Trucks shared the wealth on the solos, giving just about everyone their go. We got a sax solo, a flute solo on "Anyday," and the keyboardist took over on "Don't Got Over." The trumpet and the drums also had time to shine, during the cover of "Uptight." Even the trombone player got his moment during "Give It Up." And the backup singers -- who kicked ass on every song all the way from the corner -- came to the main mic at certain points to give Susan a run for her money.
All those musical components came together, often like a fireworks display, crescendoing over time into flailing, raucous booms. Every one felt like it could be the grand finale.
When they finally did get there, two hours in, the audience finally made it to their feet, saving their best enthusiasm for the end.
Personal bias: I came of age listening to Susan Tedeschi and thought God sent her directly to me to solve all my petty, juvenile problems. I grew up and realized how ridiculous I was. Kind of.
The crowd: Former rootin' tootin' rockers who now have all their money in stocks and bonds, along with a handful of youngins who know what's up.
Overheard in the crowd: "Remember that time [insert crazy story of drunken night from 30 years ago]? Oh man, that was righteous."
Random notebook dump: Susan and Derek are clearly rock solid, but they display little musical PDA. There's no "I Got You Babe" on this stage.
Bound for Glory
Don't Let Me Slide
Until You Remember
Midnight in Harlem
Done Got Over
That Did It
Simple Song --> Take You Higher
I've Got a Feelin'
Give It Up
Love Has Something Else To Say