Tedeschi Trucks Band made their way back to Tulsa’s Brady Theater this past Tuesday night for yet another magical evening. Seemingly always touring, this year the Jacksonville based band is supporting their fourth studio release, “Signs” (see our album review here: https://americanahighways.org/2019/02/22/review-tedeschi-trucks-signs/).
The past couple of years have certainly been tough for the band, fraught with losses of close friends, peers and a key member, Kofi Burbridge. Also, there was the departure of an original member (bassist Tim Lefebvre and the subsequent line-up change. Still, they soldier on, and in doing so, they seem to get better and better in spite of, or perhaps as a result of, all the tribulations. I’ve said it many times before; I think Tedeschi Trucks Band is the best band playing on any given night.
This evening was no different, and there was no place I’d have rather been. Tedeschi Trucks Band will change it up time to time, playing one lengthy set while using a supporting band to open shows, but other times performing two sets in “an evening with” format. Tonight was the former, and despite the shorter show, they undoubtedly gave the Tulsa audience their money’s worth. This just might have been my favorite performance of all the band’s shows I’ve seen. Over the course of the next two hours, the band introduced the Tulsa audience to songs from their new album playing “Signs, High Times”, “When Will I Begin”, and “Shame”. For those that aren’t familiar with TTB, it’s a large band; a musical ensemble if you will, of incredibly talented musicians. The band consists of, Susan Tedeschi (Guitar, Lead Vocals), Derek Trucks (Lead Guitar) Mike Mattison (Vocals, acoustic guitar), Mark Rivers (Vocals), Alecia Chakour (Vocals), Kebbi Williams (Saxophone) Ephraim Owens (Trumpet), Elizabeth Lee (Trombone), Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson (Drums) and newest additions Gabe Dixon (Keyboards) and Brandon Boone (Bass).
Even with all of that talent occupying the stage, when Susan Tedeschi steps up to the microphone, she immediately captures your attention. When she sings, she owns that stage and proceeds to break your heart, or fill it with joy via her powerful vocal presence. Such was the case as with the evening’s versions of “Learn How To Love” and Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” and the jaw dropping cover of Elton John’s “Border Song”. All highlights for sure, but the real stand-out of the night was the inspired Beatles/Derek and the Domino’s duo of “I’ve Got A Feeling” and “Keep On Growing.” It was one of those moments that you’ll tell people about over and over.
I don’t know how they do it, and I’m not even sure they’re consciously aware that they’re doing it. But somehow, some way, Tedeschi Trucks Band has an inherent talent, a process or a method in which they tap into that mystical “X” factor or “the zone”.You may have heard those terms associated with bands before, most commonly mentioned with “jam” bands or improvisational genres such as jazz, or even blues. It’s probably most noticeably associated with the Grateful Dead, and it references a band’s ability to “feel” the music, to connect within the music with each member’s individual contributions enhancing the overall sonic excursion. Perhaps it’s a rhythm, or individual notes or even a musical tease of another song. Somehow it all ends up coming together like a single musical octopus determining the course of the moment’s journey. To be sure, it’s not always happening. The majority of Tedeschi Trucks Band shows follow a pretty straightforward method. There’s a per-determined setlist, one supplied by a seemingly endless selection of classic and lesser known songs, that the band manages to reverently perform. But there are moments, where they step outside the known boundaries, and that’s where the magic happens for many of us.
If one was to give that aforementioned octopus a name, it would likely be Derek Trucks. It’s something special watching him lead and direct the band throughout the night. A head nod here, a glance or a small gesture there, the rest of the band looks to Trucks as he provides the musical path for them to follow each night. This Tuesday night in Tulsa was no different, and no matter how many times I’ve witnessed it, it’s still something incredibly special to experience.
Joining TTB on several dates this tour were a special young band called Southern Avenue who come out of Memphis and absolutely represent and honior the Memphis sound. Consisting of vocalist Tierinii Jackson, her sister Tikyra Jackson on drums, Ori Naftaly on guitar, Jeremy Powell on keys and Evan Sarver on bass.The band grabbed the attention of the Brady Theater audience early, and Tierinii’s energy proved contagious the remainder of the set. It’s fairly rare that I see an opening band command the attention of the audience the way Southern Avenue did, and that should speak volumes to their future trajectory. Southern Avenue blends soul, funk, gospel, blues and rock like a spicy gumbo that you can’t get enough of. The band has a current album, a self-titled release via the legendary Stax Records that’s available now. Earlier this year Americana Highways Editor, Melissa Clarke interviewed Southern Avenue and you can check that out here: https://americanahighways.org/2019/05/08/interview-ori-naftaly-and-tierinii-jackson-of-southern-avenue-band-keep-on/
Southern Avenue is a band we’ll all be hearing a lot more from, that I have no doubt. Keep up with all their information including tour dates here: https://www.southernavenuemusic.com/