(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Concert Review - Drive By Truckers with the Henry Clay People

14 May 2010 (Aggie Theatre, Ft. Collins CO)
Despite the cold drizzle outside, it was cooking inside the Aggie. A full crowd came out, ready to party down with some earnest rocking music. The Drive By Truckers pulled fans from as far away as Nebraska -- there's no question that it was worth the drive.

The Henry Clay People
I talked to frontman Joey Siara before the show and he was upbeat on the audience crossover from the Drive By Truckers to the Henry Clay People. "I think that overall, I've been impressed by the crowd's openmindedness, letting a young band flop around on stage." This was the last night of their tour together and they were making the most of it.

The Henry Clay People balanced professionalism with fun. The transitions between songs were fairly quick and smooth, but they had a wilder feel during the songs that grabbed the audience. With a hard rock beat and resonating guitars, the sibling energy between brothers Joey and Andy was a strong symbol for the tightness of the band. They had a great stage presence. Andy's lead guitar was soulful and tasteful and the keys were a stronger component of their live sound.

They played through a number of new songs from Somewhere on the Golden Coast (reviewed here), including Working Part Time, a faster tempo version of Your Famous Friends, the Ian Hunter tinged Slow Burn, and the slow ballad A Temporary Fix. They also played some of their older songs, like Rock and Roll Has Lost Its Teeth and the The Switch Kids.

Having proven their chops with their original songs, they pulled out some nice covers, including Mott the Hoople's Roll Away the Stone, an impromptu Life on Mars (Bowie), and CCR's Who'll Stop the Rain. Closing out their set, they did a medley of classic covers with references to Lou Reed, David Bowie, the Faces, and the Who. It was energetic, earnest rock and roll. The Henry Clay People are definitely worth seeing live. This summer, they'll be touring with Silver Sun Pickups, mostly on the East Coast.

Drive By Truckers
The anticipation built, waiting for the Drive By Truckers to take the stage. After a fairly long wait and rowdy chants of "DBT! DBT!", the band took the stage. They rolled into a hard rocking Drag The Lake Charlie, with a cool offbeat rhythm on the verses and sweet pedal tone lead licks.

The Drive By Truckers are sometimes classed as alt-country or country rock, but their music transcends genre. Last night, they leapt from ballad to rocker to blues, more concerned with keeping the show moving than pigeonholing their style. There was a tip of the hat to country music, but their influences came from across the board: Southern rock like the Charlie Daniels Band, Allman Brothers blues, a taste of REM and plenty of Tom Petty rock. Their open sound drove their appeal to different crowds, which all came together Friday night.

Throughout the show, their famed three axe attack carried the songs, providing a tangled jangle of guitars. In particular, John Neff played riff after riff of tasteful lead. Whether he was playing slide or more standard leads, he was always laid back in contrast to his hot finger work.

Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood took turns driving songs, most the time with the audience singing along. They played a number of favorites, like Your Daddy Hates Me, The Company I Keep, and Checkout Time in Vegas. My favorite two tunes were the cool angular vibe of Sink Hole, which reminded me of the Beat Farmers, and the beautiful Santa Fe, anchored by sweet steel guitar work. Santa Fe's psychedelic lead jam contrasted nicely with Patterson's heartfelt vocals and the simple rolling rhythm.

Throughout the set, bassist Shonna Tucker was steady and true, following all of the stylistic shifts and contributing the occasional vocal. A key part of that three axe attack was how well the bass fit in, meshing with one part, then another.

The encore dragged the night on, but no one was in a hurry to leave. At the very end, they brought the Henry Clay People back out to play a crowded cover of Jim Carroll's People Who Died. We may not have died, but we were in heaven.

Raise a glass of fine Bourbon to the Dirty South.

More photos on my Flickr.

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