photos by Jon Cameron
It was a prematurely freezing night in Nashville when the Drive-By Truckers rolled into The Cannery Ballroom for the first show of their two night stand in Music City. The venue was packed and the uber talented Lilly Hiatt opened the show with fire and passion. By the time she finished her set the crowd was more than warmed up and ready for the truckers to take the stage.
As a native Alabamian I have been a fan of DBT since Southern Rock Opera came out and flipped the idea of what southern rock could be on its head. I make a point to catch every tour and await each new release like a kid waiting on Christmas. I tell you this because after seventeen years they have yet to take their collective foot off the gas pedal. Coming out with the excellent “Made Up English Oceans” with its cowboy tale, western beat they had the crowd in the palm of their hand. Cooley sounded great on lead vocals and the band seemed loose but energized at the same time. “Women without Whiskey” and “Drag the Lake Charley” signaled that we were in for “one of those” shows where all we, as an audience, had to do is sit back and enjoy the ride. Maybe it was because they were coming off a stellar three night stand in Birmingham; maybe they were energized by the blue wave that captured the U.S House of Representatives; or maybe it was the vibe of Nashville, where they always seem to bring their A-Game. I really don’t care why they seemed to be in such a great mood I’m just happy I was in the audience to pick up what they were putting down.
“A Ghost to Most” and a raved up “Shit Shots Count” extended the setlist winning streak before we got to a new song “Thoughts and Prayers.” Its jangly — think early REM — guitar work plays underneath an indictment of the casual nature of how we approach tragedies in today’s world and how our words mean nothing against the actions we do not take, the song continues to put the bands social consciousness front and center. From that they fittingly plow into a trio of songs – “Ramon Casiano,” “Darkened Flags at the Cusp of Dawn” and “Surrender Under Protest” from their heralded 2016 release American Band. Following the jaw droppingly powerful new song, these three songs back to back to back further drive home the point the band is trying to make with their music. Not too much later we are treated to another new song, the excellent “Awaiting Resurrection”. It is slow and moody with a propulsive back beat and sparing guitar to start before sliding down into a dark 70’s moment where the interplay of the guitars take over. Matt Patton’s bass is thuggishly thick and the song sounds like something dangerous is about to happen.
The crowd was definitely caught up in the moment and we barley had a moment to let it sink in before Cooley kicked into “3 Dimes Down”. The band tore into the song like a pack of wild dogs and their enthusiasm washed over the crowd leading to a yet another standout moment. “Marry Me” from Decoration Day and “Buttholeville” from Gangstabilly followed before the band went all punk rock and wowed the crowd with bassist Mike Patton’s take on the Ramone’s “The KKK Took My Baby Away”. A nice little rave-up it gave way to “What it Means” before we were again treated to not one but two new songs. “Slow Ride Argument” with Cooley taking lead is a grinding gritty rocker and it was fun to see Patterson Hood and Cooley having a good time as they traded off on vocals. “Babies in Cages” has a darkly funky groove, the guitar has this dirty feel and Jay Gonzalez shines on keys. Patterson Hood’s vocals are immediate and urgent and once the band gets going this song grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go. Sonically this was not a three guitar army moment, as it was moody and purposeful with a sense of foreboding about it. Easily my favorite moment of the night. Southern Rock Opera and fan favorite “Zip City” is characteristically excellent and after twenty-six songs you keep wondering what they are going to pull out of their hat next. Well we didn’t have to wait long as the opening chords of “Let There Be Rock” filled the ballroom. While I have many songs that rank in my ever changing all-time top ten, “Let There be Rock” has a permanent place. It is a perfect song about an imperfect moment and no matter what they play live I always leave a little disappointed if they don’t play it. Hood and Cooley had a great time as they went from verse to verse, the crowd singing along, and Patterson grinning from ear to ear like the joker. It was indicative of the kinda night it had been. The band was loud and alive with each song giving way to a song just as good if not better. As the final notes echoed off the brick and the band laid down their instruments and bid us a good night I just stood there and smiled. No encore, no explanation just a fantastic show, perfectly executed with the audience left cheering for more. https://www.drivebytruckers.com/