Drive-By Truckers

Show Review: Drive-By Truckers with Margo Cilker and John Calvin Abney

Show Reviews

Drive-By Truckers w/Margo Cilker — John Calvin Abney at Jones Assembly

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The Drive-By Truckers brought the legendary Rock Show into Oklahoma City’s Jones Assembly this past Tuesday night for a stop on their 2023 Welcome 2 Club XIII tour, as they make their way eastward towards Athens, GA and this year’s Homecoming shows. The Drive-By Truckers are comprised of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley on guitar and vocals, Brad ‘EZB’ Morgan on drums, Jay Gonzalez on guitar and keys and Matt Patton on bass.

Performing a 21 song set that spanned their storied career, there was bound to be a little something for everyone. The band’s newest, and fourteenth studio release Welcome 2 Club XIII was well represented, with 3 songs, “The Driver,” “Every Single Storied Flameout” and the heartbreaking “We Will Never Wake You in the Morning” standing toe to toe with such setlist stalwarts as “One of These Days,” or “Lookout Mountain.” 2020’s The Unraveling provided the pair of “Rosemary With a Bible and a Gun” as well as “Slow Ride Argument” to round out the newer songs, with the remainder of the set mostly dedicated to road-tested ragers.

The band kicked of the set with Mike Cooley taking the first vocal on “3 Dimes Down” from my personal favorite DBT album, 2008’s Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, with Patterson Hood following up with “Puttin’ People on the Moon” from ’04’s The Dirty South. That boys & girls, is how you open a show properly. Throughout the remainder of the night, typically alternating vocals between Hood and Cooley the band delved into their high powered catalog for the real meat of the set with songs such as “Women Without Whiskey,” “Used to be a Cop,” “Mary Me,” My Sweet Annette” and “A Ghost to Most.” Personal standouts for me were Cooley’s impassioned “Uncle Frank,” as well as Patterson’s beautifully epic set ending “Grand Canyon.” Southern Rock Opera‘s “Plastic Flowers on the Highway” sounded fresh and revitalized with a new faster arrangement, and of course the always welcome “Buttholeville,” as it often is, was paired up with Springsteen’s “State Trooper” for a flawless segue that simply put, fucking rocked.

The song from the set that I was most excited about was my first live version of “When the Pin Hits the Shell” from 2003’s Decoration Day. It’s a song that’s a deeply personal favorite of mine, and one I’ve been chasing a live version of since it’s debut. As soon as the song started I felt that twinge of excitement only to have the experience somewhat marred during it’s first verse by an obnoxious fan, repeatedly yelling something undecipherable just as loudly as they possibly could. So loud and distracting in fact, it seemed to noticeably throw Cooley off in his vocal, and to that point. it caused Hood to respond by stepping to the microphone to tell the offending party, “Shut the fuck up!” I guess thankfully, there’s still quite a few songs in the band’s catalog I’ve still hoping to still catch live (my ever elusive “Mercy Buckets” for example), so I’ll just chalk this one up as a win anyway, and look forward to the next one, but it’s still disheartening. I’m not really sure what’s going on with audience behavior at shows anymore. Sure, there’s always been some expected rowdiness, but what I saw tonight, as well as seeing more and more frequently here in OKC, are audiences seemingly attending shows for the social aspect and the party more than having any intention of enjoying the music.

Not sure what the answer is to that problem, but the severity of the situation really hit home as the band finished their set at 10:40-ish or so, waved their goodbyes and left the stage without an encore. As I usually do, I’d glanced at previous setlists from the tour, and was hopeful for one of the usual encores from the run, asmoking cover of Jim Carrol’s “People That Died” or the timely “Angels & Fuselage” from Southern Rock Opera. We got neither. As the house lights came up, my wife who was a equally bothered by the situation, leaned over to me and said, “We didn’t deserve an encore.”

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Opening this leg of the tour for DBT, was Oregon songwriter Margo Cilker, joined by John Calvin Abney on guitar. Cilker was a new discovery for me, an artist of whom I’d heard their name, but not their music. The Drive-By Truckers have always been a gateway drug for me in discovering new artists via the opener’s slot. Bands like Slobberbone, Houndmouth, Heartless Bastards and Ryan Bingham are all bands I’ve first heard playing with DBT over the years, and now I feel fortunate to add Cilker’s name to that impressive list. Margo Cilker released her true debut effort, Pohorylle in the fall of 2021, and was subsequently named one of NPR’s “11 Oregon artists to watch in 2021.” I was excited to hear Cilker’s songs, especially with Oklahoma native John Calvin Abney joining her on these dates and lending his immeasurable talents to round out the sound. Best of all, they seemed like they we were having fun playing together, and it showed in the music and banter. Songs that stood out for me included, “Kevin Johnson,” “Here in Baker” and “That River.” There’s a complexity to Cilker’s songs that may have unfortunately been lost on the OKC audience awaiting the Rock Show. In truth, I was embarrassed by the lack of respect the audience showed Cilker on her first show here in Oklahoma. Essentially, it was the same behaviors that manifested throughout DBT’s set later in the evening. Cilker certainly deserved better, and I hope that she’ll make it back this way again and give OKC another chance in a more welcoming environment, like perhaps the Blue Door, where music fans actually come to listen rather than socialize.
Find out much more about Margo Cilker by visiting her page here:

Enjoy our previous coverage here: Editor’s Pick: Favorite Albums of 2021

1 thought on “Show Review: Drive-By Truckers with Margo Cilker and John Calvin Abney

  1. Hello! Terrific review! One note: since at least 2016, DBT has ceased doing encores at all. They start, they play, they finish, and don’t “pretend” to go off and then come back. It’s great, and I am now surprised when other bands do the Kabuki Encore thing!

    Thanks again for this review. Come to Homecoming, and get “When the Pin…”

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