Opening the "Kinder Revolution" tour in one of their favorite cities with their new bassist in tow‚ Gov't Mule had every right to be happy October 30th. That their pleasures didn't directly translate into a more perfect performance has as much to do with the mechanics of the road as the road warriors they are. Even the most seasoned musicians need time to regain their bearings after more than a month off from live playing‚ and while nothing Gov't Mule played at Flynn Theatre qualified as genuinely perfunctory‚ precious few moments rose above the merely proficient.
Perhaps‚ however‚ it's positive enough to acknowledge Jorgen Carlsson has his own identity as a bass player and musician. Not the master of the deep pocket Andy Hess is‚ the young Swede prefers to range far and wide as he played on tunes like "Thelonious Beck." Yet he authoritatively commanded the bedrock riff of "Thorazine Shuffle" as the quartet closed the first set‚ and it's very possible it was Carlsson who had something to do with the spacious rearrangement of "Rocking Horse."
The Mule debuted Faces' "Stay with Me" to inaugurate the second set and it featured some crisp clean playing from Warren Haynes‚ the likes of which also adorned "Fallen Down" (by the way‚ what's the connection here of the tease from Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come"?). Blazing away on this number -- comparable to the interval on "Mule" sandwiching Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" -- the hardest working man in show business needs to avoid using quick high ride up the fretboard as an end in itself: this ploy pleased a crowd seemingly otherwise subdued by the Flynn's formal atmosphere‚ but it's no substitute for a real combination of logic and ingenuity.
In contrast‚ the customary homage to John Lennon‚ comprised of "She Said She Said" to "Tomorrow Never knows‚" was dazzling. Similar to the way Warren utilized slide-playing as a tribute to Hendrix on "Catfish Blues‚" it was also reminiscent of the abandoned attack he used on "Wandering Child."
A similar intensity might've filled "The Other One Jam" had curfew restrictions allowed. But the initial encore of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" ended up the most memorable moment of the two-hour-plus sets: a duet between Haynes and keyboardist Danny Louis‚ it was haunting on is own terms as well as a dynamic setup for the slashing climax of "Slack Jaw Jezebel."
Warren Haynes was particularly good-natured this evening‚ solicitous of his Vermont audience‚ encouraging a sing-along on "Don't Step On the Grass Sam‚" even reminiscing a bit on Gov't Mule's long-standing relationship with Burlington and its environs. It made sense to treat this show as something of an off-Broadway debut before continuing the trek in Boston and beyond the next night‚ but even the most devout Mulehead has to hope it's sooner rather than later the band comes back… and not just to play the "Soulshine" missing from this performance.