The Palace, Melbourne – 22 April 2011
So we plan to run a pretty tight ship here at Upstream Whispers, covering quite a specific range of local and visiting music. However, an unusual opportunity came up last week, and far be it from us to argue with destiny. Particularly when the pedal steel is involved.
So it was that we found ourselves heading off to see the Bluesfest sideshow featuring Tedeschi Trucks Band and Robert Randolph and the Family Band at the Palace Theatre on Good Friday.
Randolph is arguably one of the best known pedal steel players around today, and his unusual use of the instrument in funk and soul music is a sight to behold. During a very energetic and engaging set, Randolph and his “family band” (including his very talented cousin Danyel Morgan on five-string bass and vocals, Carlton on drums, Elena on vocals and “Noodles” on keys, guitar and vocals) won over the crowd with impressive four-part harmonies, funky bass, some powerhouse drumming and crazy wah-laden pedal steel.
Along with live party numbers like “The March” and “Shake Your Hips”, Randolph and the Family Band delivered funky-as-all-get-out versions of several tunes from last year’s We Walk This Road, including “Back to the Wall”, “Dry Bones” and “Don’t Change”. Despite his best efforts, including occasionally leaving the pedal steel to run around the stage, it took Randolph a while to get the crowd going, although inviting about fifteen “ladies” to dance on-stage seemed to help. An instrumental cover of “Thriller” led into “I Don’t Know What You Came To Do” (with Randolph, Morgan and Carlton swapping instruments) and as the Family Band left the stage one-by-one, Randolph closed the set with a funky solo version of “Voodoo Child”.
After a bit of a wait – owing mainly to the substantial stage setup – the Tedeschi Trucks Band took the stage. Featuring two drummers, keys, bass, and two backing vocalists, Susan Tedeschi on electric guitar and vocals and Derek Trucks on electric guitar and slide, the new vehicle for the husband and wife duo know how to impress.
Their tight, bluesy set focused on new tunes from the band’s upcoming debut, Revelator, including “Bound for Glory” and Midnight in Harlem”, the latter penned by backing vocalist (and Derek Trucks Band lead vocalist) Mike Mattison. Tedeschi’s neat guitar playing and powerful vocals (reminiscent of Bonnie Raitt) were complemented by Trucks’ virtuosic slide guitar, and the double-drumming added some serious groove without getting in the way. Added to this were some great solos from brothers Oteil and Kofi Burbidge (on bass and keys/flute respectively). Tedeschi’s charisma balanced Trucks’ unassuming presence to make it a real crowd-pleaser, and one of the best live shows I’ve seen in a while.