By Paul Busch.
Gov’t Mule (Supported by Lukas Nelson and Promise Of The Real)
The Metro Theatre, Sydney – March 26, 2018
Warren Haynes and his Mule Brothers have clocked in over 2000 shows as of today and the number does not appear to be stopping anytime soon. With Matt Abts on drums, Garry Louis on keys and Jorgen Carlsson on bass, the unit is always as loud as dynamite and willing to please if you love prolonged jams.
Tonight was no exception as Mule came out of the gates with the rumble of ‘Railroad Boy’ from 2009’s Like A Thread. Haynes had his 12-string Gibson Les Paul strapped on and gave it a mighty thrashing. Carlsson and Abts are such a seamless and powerhouse rhythm section and the solos of Haynes on various guitars and Louis on his keyboards filled The Metro environs mightily.
Gov’t Mule sometimes have the tendency to go over the top with some of their songs, extending them to hard rock options like ‘Thorazine Shuffle’ and “Stone Cold Rage’ as they did tonight. They can also go down the path of the past of dreamy jam music that brings out the ghosts of the Allmans as they would later in the set.
Prior to the entry of the steamrolling power of The Mule, the growing crowd (which never achieved capacity throughout the night) was treated to Neil Young’s recent backing band. Lukas Nelson and Promise of The Real have a deep and heavy sound with a drummer and a percussionist along with bass, guitar and keyboards. You can understand when you hear them that Neil did not take them on because of the young Nelson’s lineage but because of their licks. It is certain there were some audience members still licking their wounds that they did not play in our country last Easter along with Neil. Let’s not dwell on such a near miss.
Nelson bears not only a strong family resemblance to Willie in his looks but in his vocal delivery. With his country songs ‘Four Letter Word’ and ‘Fool Me Once’ the familial connection was very obvious to the eyes and ears. ‘Die Alone’ was a fabulous southern rock soulful boogie and ‘If I Was The Ocean’, with a scintillating slide intro, showed the cosmic country distillation of their growth.
Quite possibly the highlight of their set was ‘Forget About Georgia’. Nelson said he wrote it because of a lost love named Georgia and the angst he felt each night playing ‘Georgia On My Mind’ with his Dad during that period of loss. Nelson’s vocals were golden country honey. Throw in a funky cover of Paul Simon’s ‘Diamond’s On The Souls Of Her Shoes’ and the band had made a whole bunch of Australian fans with their one hour of playing.
Warren Haynes and his minstrels did finally get away from the hard rocking Mule and headed into their Southern jam band roots. ‘Soulshine’, the Haynes penned Allman Brothers classic, was simply beautiful. From there they kicked off with a tease of ‘Mountain Jam’ and launched into ‘Game Face’ before morphing back into that famous instrumental ‘Mountain Jam’ for a very long time. Without a pause that segued into the bluesy ‘Beautifully Broken’ and I think many in attendance could have gone home with a satisfied soul after that quartet of songs. There was more to come with a tip of the hat to the late Tom Petty and a rocking cover of ‘Breakdown’ which ended with a reprise back into ‘Beautifully Broken’. Totally classic Mule.
As is per usual with Gov’t Mule concerts, the encore are usually covers played with some guests. Tonight it was obvious Lukas Nelson was going to come out and jam and everyone seemed to be trying to guess what Neil Young song they would perform. Sure enough, they chose ‘Danger Bird’ from Zuma and then ended with a rollicking, somewhat untidy version of The Band’s ‘The Shape I’m In’.
Warren thanked the crowd, said he wished he could play all night, which might have been true as they had not performed as a band in 2 months, but that was the end of another evening in the presence of a band that know their roots and love their interaction with each other. I would have no doubts they have another couple of thousand shows up their sleeves.
Banks Of The Deep End
Time To Confess
Devil Likes It Slow
Dreams & Songs
Stone Cold Rage
Mountain Jam>Game Face Reprise
Breakdown>Beautifully Broken Reprise
The Shape I’m In