Photos and Review by Stephen Bloch
There are a handful of bands that come to mind when thinking about prototypic southern rock. From the past, The Allman Brothers, Little Feat, and ZZ Top are the legends, but no other band epitomizes the sound more today than Drive-By Truckers, hailing out of Athens, GA (no slight to the equally as powerful rockers The Black Crowes, Blackberry Smoke, Gov’t Mule, and The Marcus King Band). Formed in 1996 and having 14 studio albums, they are a band that can go in many directions when performing live. They are seasoned pros and never play the same show twice, bringing energy and theatrics every time. Their fans are clearly well-traveled, based upon the pit’s geographic diversity (Iowa, Texas, Connecticut, and all points in between).
On Saturday evening, DBT performed at the historic Pabst Theater, a venue known for its opulence and grandeur, dating back to 1895. Warming things up for the evening was Oregon based singer/songwriter Margo Cilker. Those who arrived early were rewarded with a beautiful set of her original music from her 2021 release Pohorylle. She also blew the crowd away with her cover of Neil Young’s “Comes a Time”. DBT then hit the stage and opened with “The Living Bubba” from their debut, Gangstabilly. Clearly fans are DEEP into their catalog, knowing just about every word to even their oldest/deepest cuts. The set also had a heavy dose of tracks from their 2022 release, Welcome 2 Club XIII, a nod to a venue in Muscle Shoals, Alabama where they played early in their career. Things really ramped up when the band played crowd favorite “Surrender Under Protest” off their 2016 album, American Band. The banter from Hood and Cooley was fairly subdued throughout the night until they played “Ballad of Cecil McCobb”, a song for Wes Freed, a good friend of the band who passed away in the fall of 2022. Freed was known for the eerie album art found on many of the band’s albums. Hood described Freed’s home as a living interpretation of what was found on album art. A touching song for sure.
The over two hour performance was capped by “Angels and Fuselage” off of their 2001 release, Southern Rock Opera, a fitting finale, as The Pabst probably hosted operas regularly in its early days. Drive-By Truckers have been a mainstay in Americana/Southern Rock for over two decades. They keep it real with their performances and songwriting and make for a fist-pounding/boot stompin good time.