I hadn’t seen Gov’t Mule in nearly 8 months, having backed away from them after what I thought was a very lackluster performance at the shithole known as the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans. I was holding tickets for NYE, and truthfully, I wasn’t really feeling much of a pull to see them on any other night. However, the prospect of Keller Williams intrigued me. It had been a few years since I had seen Keller. While I’ve long enjoyed Keller’s music, I eventually grew to detest the stinking heady-brah high school crowd that seemed to infiltrate his shows. The last time I saw Keller at B.B. King’s there were tour-rats outside on 42nd St. with their dogs on hemp leashes. Sadly, I’m not kidding.
I thought this was my one shot at seeing Keller in a dog-and-patchouli-free venue. The kiddies could not afford the ticket, and the agro Mule crowd would have probably beaten them into submission if they did. I came in when Keller was onstage. The crowd was sparse, and just about no one was on their feet. Nevertheless, they seemed to enjoy him.
If I could sum up Keller’s set, I would use the word “uneventful.” It was neither special, nor offensive. It just happened, and it wasn’t a bad way to pass the time. He basically re-worked all of his songs, playing them in different styles. While I appreciated this re-invention, not one single attempt was an improvement on the original. He played The Grateful Dead’s “One More Saturday Night” as a dance groove (changing it to the appropriate “Friday Night”), and the crowd seemed to dig it. There must have been some closet String Cheese Incident fans in the crowd because “Best Feeling” received a warm reception, as well.
Everyone I know seems to say the same thing about Keller: “I like him, but I hate when he does the loop jams.” Well, on this night, the loop jams were short. Essentially, he’d play a song, and then he’d start looping on different instruments, but this would only go on for a minute or two before starting a new song. I really didn’t mind this at all, although I could have done without the cheesy electronic drums.
12.28.07 Beacon Theatre – New York, NY
Keller Williams Opening Set:
Rock And Roll All Night
More Than A Little
After having made it through Keller’s set without much fanfare, I began to wonder if I made the right move in shelling out seventy-some bucks for this ticket. I was going to see Mule in three days anyway, and did it really make sense to pay this much to see an opening act who didn’t do all that much?
By the time Gov’t Mule ripped into the second tune, “32-20 Blues,” my concerns had been put to rest. Per usual, Warren Haynes was in fine form, and the place was really rockin’ with authority. “Lively Up Yourself” gave me some needed space to groove before “Slackjaw Jezebel” brought the thunderous rock back. Keller came out and Warren, who was surprisingly chatty, talked about the 1999 Summer Sessions tour, shows that featured Mule, Keller, Gibb Droll, moe., String Cheese, Galactic, and Kevin Kinney. I had a flashback to the Summer Sessions show I saw in Baltimore, a show that made me a newfound fan of Gov’t Mule and inspired me to write my first ever concert review. So if you, poor reader, have anyone to blame for having to suffer through 8+ years of my logorrhea, it’s Gov’t Mule, who really kicked ass back on 8-26-99.
Meanwhile, back at the show…
Keller sat in on “He Ain’t Give You None,” which was fun and “For What It’s Worth,” which I thought was pretty weak. I’m not exactly sure why I disliked this Buffalo Springfield classic so much, but I felt as though it lacked the gravitas the song requires. Perhaps this can be attributed to Keller, who tends to sing with the emotional reverence of a three-year-old. Anyway, I knew that Mule’s NYE show would be dubbed “Winter of Love” and would feature covers from 1967, so I thought it was interesting that Mule was already trotting out a song from that year.
The second set really took things to another level, especially after a psychedelic “She Said She Said->Tomorrow Never Knows.” I think Warren even quipped, “You never know where that one’s gonna go.” Matt Abts look a very lengthy but interesting drum solo, and it seemed as though he wanted to end it several times, but the rest of the band just wouldn’t come back on stage. The crowd went apeshit during the “Shakedown Street” tease in a very intense “Unring the Bell,” and fan-favorite “Bad Little Doggie” kept the fists pumping. Just when people were really amped, “How Many More Years->Wang Dang Doodle->How Many More Years Reprise” took everyone to the edge and back for a monstrous finish. (You can see video of “How Many More Years” here.) After all of that, I had absolutely no regrets about seeing this show.
No Need To Suffer
Mercy On The Criminal
Lively Up Yourself
When Doves Cry->
When Doves Cry->
He Ain’t Give You None* with Keller Williams
For What It’s Worth with Keller Williams
Birth Of The Earth Jam*->
Child Of The Earth
Painted Silver Light
She Said, She Said->
Tomorrow Never Knows Jam
Unring The Bell Shakedown Street Tease
Bad Little Doggie
How Many More Years->
Wang Dang Doodle->
How Many More Years Reprise
Long Distance Call
Thirty Days In The Hole
* First Time Played
A quick word about The Beacon Theater is needed. Now that MSG is in charge, it’s no longer the chaotic free-for-all party that it used to be. Patrons face a virtual strip search upon entry, and the security force sweeps down the aisle repeatedly asking people for their tickets. (Of course, when a fight nearly broke out behind us, the security personnel were nowhere to be found.) It’s rather annoying, and it’s strange that Madison Square Garden might be the most laid-back arena in America while their security team has turned the Beacon into Fort Knox.