Whether you are a guitar hero worshipper or not‚ the brilliance of Derek Trucks demands you follow whatever he does with his instrument‚ ranging from the ultra-fine detail of his slide playing on the opening "Get What You Deserve" or the rhythm comping he enacted to spur keyboardist Kofi Burbridge along his clavinet a little later in the first set.
For a music lover‚ attending a DTB show is the best of all possible worlds even at this point where‚ with Trucks' star rising ever higher with the release of his new album Already Free-climbing those Billboard charts! -the concert presentation becomes more polished. But the colorful backdrop banners and increasingly dramatic lighting for the group still doesn't detract from the musicianship at work on stage.
While not everyone in The Derek Trucks Band evinces their pleasure so readily as bassist Todd Smallie‚ who often beams across the stage as he observes his bandmates interacting‚ each member knows his role and plays it to the hilt‚ the dynamic of a truly great team. Take vocalist Mike Mattison: how courageous of him to stand next to Derek and sing (ever more hoarsely when not effectively utilizing a falsetto)‚ hearing the guitar follow his own vocal lines with all the same touch of nuance‚ and not become self-conscious to the point of losing the abandon that makes him such a fine singer.
There are no doubt those who'd prefer more guitar and less singing‚ but Trucks isn't going in that direction with his band right now. Besides‚ he has plenty of chance to wind out the throttle playing with The Allman Brothers these days‚ and given the fact he's only thirty‚ he no doubt will return some day to that space where "My Favorite things' becomes a centerpiece of his set and he goes further than just teasing Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Volunteered Slavery" (not to mention Hendrix' Band of Gypsy's staple "Who Knows").
Each of the two sets the sextet offered this Friday night gave the lie to any suspicion DTB's become too slick for their own good. Recalling the origins of the new album‚ the rough bluesy textures were readily apparent from the very start from the tough version of Bob Dylan's "Down in the Flood" to a clutch of excerpts from the new album; like its title song‚ these choices provided bright contrast to the shadowy likes of "Leaving Trunk" and the explosive version of "Key to the Highway" that closed the regular show.
The high point‚ however‚ might've been "Sahib Teri Bandi‚" the Indian-influenced piece that‚ with its complex time signatures‚ challenged the whole band to rise to the top of their game‚ most especially the leader. But Trucks‚ brandishing the glass bottleneck as he did much of the evening‚ nailed the changes with ever-fierce intensity‚ rightfully wowing the devoted audience.
Having appeared on the Burlington waterfront last August‚ this early spring show was the second DTB appearance in the area in roughly six months‚ but only the most recent in some regular visits to the Green Mountains over the years. As perhaps the first ever to sell out in anticipation of the lights going down‚ it bespeaks a knowing and increasingly larger audience coming to realize what a scintillating well-grounded musician Derek Trucks really is and exactly how supportive is the band that accompanies him.