Tedeschi Trucks Thrill Austin City Limits

Mad Dogs & Floridians cap all-star season 41

A whiff of finality hung in the air Monday night at the Moody Theater. As announced by Austin City Limits Executive Producer Terry Lickona, the last taping of the show’s 41st season – a run including some of the biggest acts of the year (Kendrick Lamar, Courtney Barnett, Sleater-Kinney) – was at hand. Susan Tedeschi said it was the last date of a yearlong tour.

Susan Tedeschi & Derek Trucks, ACL Live at the Moody Theater, 12.14.16 (Photo by Scott Newton/Courtesy of KLRU-TV)

Lickona also foretold that Tedeschi, her fellow guitarist and husband Derek Trucks, and their 10-piece band would blow the roof of the place. That became obvious from the first song, a charged cover of Allen Toussaint’s “Break in the Road.” The Tedeschi Trucks Band wasn’t fooling around.

By concentrating on songs from Let Me Get By, their third album due at the end of January, the ensemble also offered a glimpse of the future. On display flourished a band at the height of its powers, grinding the blues, storming funk, and offering up jams that, while not strictly inventive, always served the songs with feeling. A higher plane was reached.

That there’s quite a bit of Texas in TTB these days made the evening even more special. Drummer J.J. Johnson has long been part of the band, trumpet player Ephraim Owens a recent addition, and, though not an actual band member, Doyle Bramhall II wore many hats in the making for the new album, including songwriting and producing.

Earlier this year at the Lockn’ Festival in Virginia, TTB paid tribute to Mad Dogs & Englishmen, an infamous 1970 tour headed up by Joe Cocker and Leon Russell. A number of songs from the album of that tour also made it into the set-list. “The Letter” and “Bird on A Wire” made for a contrasting pair, the former given a rowdy reading and the latter performed with sensitive potency.

They also reached back to that period for a furious cover of Derek & the Dominos’ “Keep On Growing,” where Trucks demonstrated his slide guitar influences by combining Eric Clapton and Duane Allman for something wholly original. Tedeschi’s spotlight came on “I Pity the Fool,” her guitar play and soul shouts getting to the bottom of the Bobby “Blue” Bland classic.

While the bandleaders naturally garnered most of the attention, the Florida-based group as a whole brought the idea of maximum music in a traveling circus to life, from the hefty chops of keyboard and flute player Kofi Burbridge to tie-dyed and dancing trombonist Elizabeth Lea. Mid-set backup vocalist Mike Mattison stepped up to take the lead on Titus Turner’s “Sticks & Stones,” another throwback – this one in the style of Wilson Pickett.

TTB’s now standard ending of “The Storm,” a mix of premium guitar noodling from Trucks and near metal riffage, preceded a howling encore. New tune “Anyhow” matched with another from Mad Dogs, “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” and gave the entire band its moment centerstage. There’s no contemporary match for the Tedeschi Trucks Band in that their third LP manages the nearly impossible combination of growth and improvement where none seems possible or necessary.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Tedeschi Trucks Band, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Duane Allman, Eric Clapton, Derek & the Dominos, Allen Toussaint, Wilson Pickett, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Bobby Blue Bland, Kofi Burbridge, Alecia Chakour, Mike Mattison

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