An evening with the Tedeschi Trucks Band is not one easily forgotten, and the fifth night of their six-night residency at New York City’s Beacon Theatre was no exception. The Grammy Award-winning blues/funk/jazz/soul/jam juggernaut thrives on unpredictability, offering wildly different sets and interpretations of songs night to night, and they brought their trademark versatility and stamina to a show with as many highlights as there are band members (to the uninitiated, the mammoth group includes one lead guitarist, one rhythm guitarist/vocalist, one bassist, one keyboardist/flautist, two drummers, three harmony vocalists, one saxophonist, one trumpeter, and one trombonist).
Anchored by husband and wife duo of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi on lead guitar and lead vocals respectively, economy is not the name of the game here. Though they are the sun around which the rest of the band revolves, each member is given opportunities to shine just as bright. The show approached four hours in length, with an intermission offering a brief respite between two red-hot and jam-packed sets.
The evening kicked off with a rousing cover of Delaney & Bonnie’s ‘Comin’ Home,’ a seemingly unusual move from a band with three studio albums of original material to their name (the most recent of these, ‘Let Me Get By,’ released earlier this year) but a telling one. TTB wears its vast range of influences on its sleeve and one of the real joys of their show is seeing what covers it has in store. Later on, they stunned with a restrained, sublime take on The Beatles’ ‘Something’ and a rollicking ‘Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever,’ more akin to The Band’s version than The Four Tops’ original.
TTB songs still pervaded both sets, displaying the band’s facility as writers in addition to their prodigious skill as interpreters. ‘Don’t Know What It Means,’ a cut from ‘Let Me Get By,’ featured a soulful sing-along chorus and, later, a searing solo from saxophonist Kebbi Williams. Keyboardist Kofi Burbridge got the crowd moving with his funky, wah-wah-affected organ on that album’s title track. Bassist Tim Lefebvre, whose profile recently skyrocketed with his work on David Bowie’s ‘ ,’ kept to the sidelines, avoiding solos but grounding and coloring in numbers like the impressionistic ‘Swamp Raga’ with his jazz and fusion-indebted playing.
Susan Tedeschi is a consistently jaw-dropping vocalist and, like her eleven band mates, did not disappoint. Although garnering wilder responses when belting TTB cuts like the bluesy ‘Made Up Mind,’ muted moments like the stripped down cover of Ray LaMontagne’s ‘Shelter,’ featuring only her, Burbridge, and drummer Tyler Greenwell, packed an emotional punch and put her (and the band’s) tremendous range on display.
Closing out the first set was ‘The Storm,’ from the group’s sophomore album ‘Made Up Mind.’ Dedicated to Floridians contending with the wrath of Hurricane Matthew, the performance featured an extended closing solo from Derek Trucks that elicited cheers and reverent silences in equal measure. One of the finest guitarists to ever pick up the instrument, Trucks deftly modulated, switched between flatpicking and his signature slide, and led the band through a series of radical dynamic shifts that kept the audience rapt for fifteen dizzying minutes.
In a night full of surprises, the biggest one came midway through the second set when the band welcomed Warren Haynes to the stage. A partial reunion of the final incarnation of The Allman Brothers Band in the venue they had almost become synonymous with due to their own series of month-long residencies between 1989 and 2014, the veteran singer and guitarist’s entrance alone was a showstopper. The band deftly moved through ‘Preachin’ Blues,’ ‘Keep On Growing,’ ‘Soul Serenade,’ ‘It Hurts Me Too,’ and ‘Had to Cry Today,’ wrapping up the second set with alternating bouts of mystifying quiet and primal fury. The rapport between Trucks and Haynes clearly has not dulled since their days in the Allman Brothers and the reunion was a rare treat for lucky fans.
The band satisfied the cacophonous demand for an encore with ‘I Cannot Make It’ by Sly & The Family Stone. After a show featuring numerous songs that pushed the ten, fifteen and twenty minute marks, the relatively terse closer put a thunderous period on a riveting concert and, after nearly four hours, left fans wanting more.
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