Review by Max Stewart, Photos by Tyler Sterling
Each time the Tedeschi Trucks Band take the stage at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre, there is something spiritual in the air. Sure, the majestic Fox Theatre is alluring enough in its own right for any band to bring its ‘A’ game to the ATL: the countless historic shows, the regal atmosphere and picturesque interior with stars lining the ceiling… it truly is one of the country’s best rooms to see live music.
For Tedeschi Trucks Band, however, there is much more weight to every show at the Fox.
Yes, many of the members of Tedeschi Trucks Band call the greater Atlanta area home, making it a quasi-home base for the band. Derek Trucks cut his teeth at the Atlanta venue as a young member and slide guitar master in the Allman Brothers Band, performing alongside the late great Gregg Allman and his uncle, Butch Trucks. Also, founding TTB member and Atlanta native Kofi Burbridge tragically passed away in 2019, with each show back in town feeling like we are again basking in the musical joy with Kofi (the crowd at the Fox shows were littered with shirts honoring the legendary keyboardist and flautist).
But when Atlanta musical icon Col. Bruce Hampton passed away on the stage during the encore of his 70th birthday concert at the Fox in May 2017 with Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks and many other musicians that loved him performing with him on stage, the Fox took on a whole new level of importance. Trucks and Tedeschi have both said many times that Hampton was a guiding light and source for musical inspiration and wisdom throughout the start of their careers and beyond (check out this incredible interview with Rick Beato done the day after the Friday Fox performance, with many mentions of the Colonel’s influence). Trucks would joke that Hampton often referred to himself as a “minor league coach” in expanding the musical palates and outlooks for countless other musicians.
Knowing the impact Hampton had on the band always elevates the energy and significance of each show at the Fox, as Hampton’s Zambi spirit always seems to be within arm’s length.
The word ‘epic’ is often overused, but I truly cannot think of a better description of the live experience of seeing Tedeschi Trucks Band with their full-flavored ensemble of musicians. In addition to guitarist Derek Trucks and singer / guitarist Susan Tedeschi, the lineup includes dual drummers Tyler Greenwell and Isaac Eady, long-time Derek Trucks Band member and vocalist Mike Mattison, Brandon Boone (bass guitar), Gabe Dixon (keyboards), the three-piece horn section of Kebbi Williams (saxophone), Ephraim Owens (trumpet), and Elizabeth Lea (trombone), and Mark Rivers and Alecia Chakour on vocal duties with Mattison. They even had an incredible sousaphone player, Adrian Jackson, for the weekend!
As the band took the stage for the first night of a two night run at the Fox, they were armed with a mound of fantastic new material to add to their already vast array of originals and covers. During the pandemic, the band met at Derek and Susan’s house in Florida to record a quadruple album, I Am the Moon, with each band member contributing to songs. A little more background on the releases below:
The project I Am The Moon, started taking shape in May, 2020, two months after the band was forced off the road by lockdown. Mike Mattison sent an email to Derek, Susan, Gabe and Tyler with a suggestion for the group: read Layla and Majnun. Written by the 12th Century Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi, the poem is an enduring tale of star-crossed devotion and was the title inspiration for Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. – an influential album for TTB. But Ganjavi’s vast 100-page poem resonated with Mike in an altogether different way. Mike explains that, the Clapton album is one point of view, Layla as this love object: ‘I want you, I can’t have you.'” But after Mattison read the original work, “I realized there are many things going on from different perspectives” and proposed, in his email, “revisiting this material as a band, as writers.”
“When Mike said, ‘Well, what does Layla think about all this?’, I thought that was an amazing way to look at the story,” Trucks says. I Am The Moon was written collectively and collaboratively, with band members contributing different perspectives on the poem. By January 2021 the band was recording at Tedeschi and Trucks’ home studio, Swamp Raga, in Jacksonville, FL, with Derek behind the board as producer.
The decision to sequence and release I Am The Moon in four distinct episodes came “when we started thinking of records we love,” Trucks says, citing Axis: Bold as Love, the 1967 LP by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. “It’s 36 minutes long. That’s the way to digest a record.”Story of Tedeschi Trucks Band’s new 4-LP release, I Am the Moon
Tedeschi Trucks Band create such an intense and stirring sonic wave that hits you right to your core. The sounds fly high, interweave, but the musicians always seem to avoid mid-air collisions and a cacophonous mess.
The twelve-piece ensemble are all fully-formed musicians that come together to create the most pure and freeing live event. I have long affirmed that Tedeschi Trucks Band concerts are akin to a musical religious experience: the brooding jams that peak into pure elation, the harmonies, the mix of brass and guitar, the congregation on their feet, everyone on board for the ride. Coming off of the ambitious four-album release, the Tedeschi Trucks Band are celebrating another highlight in their impressive career as a band with an extensive tour of the U.S. and Europe.
When they opened with “Hold My Dear”, the first track off their new record, it was a tender introduction to Tedeschi’s mesmerizing voice. The band then proceeded to play the entire first album, I Am The Moon: I. Crescent, sequentially. Sometimes when bands try to pull off this move shortly after releasing a new record, it is met with a sea of twirling thumbs and bathroom breaks. That is not at all the case for this album and this band. The songs fit like a glove into the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s setlist.
Mike Mattison was front and center for “Fall In,” which has a sweet, Bourbon Street boogie. The title track “I Am The Moon” saw keyboardist Gabe Dixon swap lead vocals with Tedeschi in an effortless stride. “Circles ‘Round the Sun” has a slow build with the horn section and riff that feels centering in its groove thanks to Tedeschi’s soaring vocals.
The final tune of the record, “Pasaquan”…. Wow. That was one of the high-water marks of the evening. Starting with Trucks, Dixon on keys, and the full rhythm section, the song eventually morphs into a titan dueling drum section, carried on the wings of Tyler ‘The Falcon’ Greenwell and Isaac Eady’s locked-tight swing. It went out, FAR out. Intergalactic, in fact. But was tethered to the mainland with something akin to “Mountain Jam” by Allman Brothers Band.
TTB welcomed members of the opening band Los Lobos onstage for a few covers, including War’s “This World is a Ghetto”, showcasing the guitar acumen of Cesar Rosas. When the band played a couple of Derek and the Dominos songs off of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (“Anyday” and “Keep On Growing”), it was another hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-raising experience. They frequently perform songs from this record, and TTB actually released a live version of the album at the LOCKN’ festival with Trey Anastasio. Here are a couple of surreal facts that prove the universe knows exactly what it’s doing: Derek was named after the band and Susan was born on the album’s release day, November 9, 1970. This record and these songs clearly have a deep-rooted history to this band, and that came through in colors during the renditions.
Local Georgian Mike Mattison sang one of his best songs, the drawling blues number “Life Is Crazy”, which showcased his raspy but dynamic vocal range. “So Long Savior” from the second album, I Am The Moon: II. Ascension, felt like knee-slappin’, Delta blues with a full dose of gospel.
The tried-and-true TTB staples “Do I Look Worried”, “Bound for Glory” and “I Want More” were cleansing moments that seemingly washed off the ickiness of the last two years and let us just surrender to the band’s epic live music journey. Which brings me to a thought that I have been circling for a while but realized in full force when concerts were gone during the lockdown: Why do we love live music? For me, it is the journey that a band can take you on and the feeling that the audience is on that ride with the band, hand-in-hand. Riding the waves, hitting the peaks, enjoying the journey.
To me, there is no better band to take the universal trip with than Tedeschi Trucks Band. During the encore, when they segued “I Want More” into the Allman Brothers Band “Les Brers in A Minor”, the sprits of the Fox were with us.
Gregg, Butch, Kofi and the Colonel were all in that room on that journey.
Tedeschi Trucks Band – Setlist – 7/15/22:
Hear My Dear
I Am The Moon
Circles ‘Round The Sun
The World Is a Ghetto (War cover)
Keep On Growing (Derek and the Dominos cover)
So Long Savior
Do I Look Worried
Anyday (Derek and the Dominos cover)
Life Is Crazy (Mike Mattison cover)
Bound for Glory
That Did It (Bobby “Blue” Bland cover)
I Want More >
Les Brers in A Minor (The Allman Brothers Band cover)