J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Drive-by Truckers - Cat's Cradle, Carborro, North Carolina - 18th and 19th November 2005

I once heard a story related by Tony Wilson, founder of Factory Records, about a British band's first trip stateside for a tour (I want to say it was the Stone Roses, but I can't remember.). The band did its performance, felt rather satisfied, but were confused when the crowd seemed angry. The matter, it turned out, was that they'd played for merely 20 minutes. The band wasn't used to having to play longer sets at live shows.

In the United States our almost obsessive nature for getting what we pay for extends to such commodities as art. If I am paying average ticket price (for people who frequent smaller clubs: $10 - $15; for those who frequent stadiums: $35 - $50+) for a show, I better feel like the performance was worth it. If not, I'm far less likely to want to shell out cash for another underwhelming performance.

The Drive-by Truckers might as well be written up in Consumer Reports. And here is where I make a really awkward and somewhat silly analogy: the Truckers are to concerts as Yeungling is to beer. Domestic, moderately priced, and a really satisfying taste. (Your opinion about Yeungling as a beer may be different from mine, but bear with me here.) To see the Truckers is to see a full on rock show. Lengthy sets, diverse set lists, crowd-baiting guitar heroics and most of all workmanship. The Truckers perform like it's their job; a job they love doing more than anything else.

To be honest, and as a caveat about potential biases I have in writing this piece, these shows marked the 6th and 7th times, respectively, that I've seen them perform. They are a consistantly enthralling band to watch and their sets rarely stray short of 2 1/2 hours, including encore. The only other show I've witnessed with as much fervor and dedication to giving people a show to remember was seeing Springsteen. And as you can imagine, that cost quite a bit more than even both nights of the Truckers put together.

The first of the two nights found them as they usually are, barrelling through a set of songs from their full catalogue, the large chunk of which came from the two most recent albums, The Dirty South and Decoration Day. As I've oft mentioned, the Truckers are blessed with three solid songwriters in the form of Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and Jason Isbel, and each songwriter takes the stage on almost an equal basis nightly. The setlists are arranged in a way that obviously shows attention to detail. The songs ebb and flow in intensity, never letting the crowd be lulled for too long without something to knock the tempo back up.

The stand outs of the first night largely came in the songs from the early albums. "Box of Spiders" from Pizza Deliverance was performed for the first time in my times of seeing them, as was "Margo and Harold" from the same album. Otherwise the setlist largely paralleled the last time I saw them in January of 2005, right down to the bluesy, grooving cover of Paul McCartney's "Let Me Roll It."

There was one surprise left, however. And it came in the form of a one-two punch at the tail end of the encore. The Truckers played a new song, "Feb. 14," that was excellent, building with intensity by using a cadence-style drum beat that wouldn't allow the guitars to rev up until key parts of the chorus and bridge. And then, despite having said it was the last song of the night, began immediately playing a screaming, wailing and nerve-wracking cover of Jim Carroll's "People Who Died," which also appeared on their 1999 live album Alabama Ass Whuppin'.

The second night of shows was no less spirited and even opened with a gutsy move; "Steve McQueen," a song usually reserved for much later in the Truckers' sets. The band did a pretty good job of not repeating too many songs from the previous night's set, with only 10 songs (including the new one) making dual appearances.

The highlights of the second night included Jason Isbell's stunning composition "T.V.A," which I hadn't heard in a live set since before the release of The Dirty South, the racing-as-heritage song "Daddy's Cup," the infrequently played "The Southern Thing," and top notch covers of Tom Petty's "Rebels," Wet Willie's "Keep On Smilin'" and a fantastic and uplifting version of Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927," dedicated to the city of New Orleans.

With talk of their new album being released in the spring (to be, according to rumour, preceded by Jason Isbell's first solo album), 2006 ought to be a fairly eventful year for the Truckers. Hood and Cooley will be celebrating 20 years of playing music together next Friday with a show in Birmingham, Alabama. And here's hoping they have plenty more years left in them.

4 Comments:

  • At 3:52 AM, November 22, 2005, Blogger Satisfied '75 said…

    J,

    is Yeungling a native beer to NC? reason I ask is that my brother (lives in Charlotte) is also partial to it. Dont have it here in L.A. as far as i know.

     
  • At 3:10 PM, November 22, 2005, Blogger Josh said…

    it is made in pennsylvania, i believe. and is the oldest continuously operating brewery in the u.s., or so they claim. it has been slowly working its way out, 'cos i definitely remember a time where we didn't have it here. it's only begun spreading in recent years

     
  • At 12:25 AM, December 01, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Do you know what the song was that the band came out to on the Friday night show?

    It was some soul number and it's driving me up the wall that I can't remember it.

    thx

     
  • At 10:28 PM, December 08, 2005, Blogger Josh said…

    I can't remember myself. Unfortunately it didn't make a big enough impression on me at the time, I suppose. I was right near front that night. You think I'd remember. Sorry.

     

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