Where: The Mountain Winery, Saratoga, California
at Mountain Winery in Saratoga
I went to the symphony on Saturday night, at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga. There were drummers (two), a brass section (three), singers (four), bass (one), keyboards (one), flute (one), and a slide guitar player who defies definition.
Derek Trucks can make his instrument sound like any of the above - including the singers.
With their eclectic mix of rock, blues, and soul, the Tedeschi Trucks Band is a feast for the ears and the eyes. Susan Tedeschi looks like a model, but she sings with "don't mess with me" power and a little rasp which act as the perfect foil for husband Derek's liquid mastery of slide guitar.
The whole band always looks like they're having a good time, with the exception of Trucks, who just keeps his head down, plays his guitar, and mouths occasional instructions to the rhythm section.
Not that it sounded like they needed any. This is an exceptionally tight band for so many members and such a loose, semi-jamming style. The two drummers - an influence maybe from uncle Butch Trucks's band the Allman Brothers - were in constant lockstep, and brothers Oteil and Kofi Burbridge on bass and keyboards/flute respectively provide a deep, rhythmic bottom end that rounds out and complements the back line.
They started the set with George Harrison's "Wah-Wah" from "All Things Must Pass." This is a perfect song for the band and a great opener, as they easily reproduced all the layers in Phil Spector's original "wall of sound" production. Some of the horn-section parts reminded me of a New Orleans jazz band. From there they went into "Until You Remember" (That You're Mine), from their 2011 "Revelator" album. This track highlights the fantastic dynamic range that the band possesses. It starts off slow and soulful with Tedeschi's voice pleading and praying, the band joining her almost one instrument at a time ,and reaching a crescendo with Tedeschi's soaring vocal. On "Love Has Something To Say," Trucks showed that he is not just restricted to the slide guitar - his fingerpicking sounded more like a sitar, which belays some of his Indian influences.
Although Trucks and Tedeschi are obviously the stars of the show, most of the other members of the band take a turn in the spotlight as well. Oteil Burbridge's soloing on his banjo bass (no, really) was unreal, and brother Kofi's flute instrumental added to some tribal undertones. I particularly enjoyed Mike Mattison's lead vocal on "Get What You Deserve." Mattison was lead vocal with the original Derek Trucks Band, but is now on harmony vocals most of the time.
A vital part of the Tedeschi Trucks Band (or TTB) is the horn section. With Kebbi Williams on sax, Maurice Brown on trumpet (who kept jumping around like he had ants in his pants), and Saunders Sermons on trombone and occasional vocals, this group of musicians is a joy to watch and hear. They did their Motown thing on Stevie Wonder's "Uptight (Everything Is Alright)" and Brown's soloing and expressions were great fun.
A word about The Mountain Winery. It's been years since I've been here, and the completely updated amphitheatre is a real joy, with proper seating - you can see and hear the band from anywhere you sit, and the restrooms are now modern and well-lit. Still a pain to get out of the parking lot after the show, but then what do you expect when you're up a mountain?
The band finished the night with a rousing version of Levon Helm's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," which really had the audience on its feet, followed by the only straight blues tune of the evening, "The Sky Is Crying." Everyone was on their feet calling for more, but on almost the last note, the clock struck 10.30, the amps went dead, and we all turned back into pumpkins. If they hadn't made it to the end there might have been a lynching.
A great band, and a thoroughly enjoyable evening. My friend, who is a classic rock aficionado, said "Who are these people, and why haven't I heard them before?"
"Trust me," I said, "you'll be hearing a lot more from the Tedeschi Trucks Band."
We didn't have glasses of champagne and long dresses like at the symphony, but boy, we had a great time.