Tedeschi Trucks Band tour with force
Benedum Center, Pittsburgh, Pa., November 19, 2016
Reviewed by Michael Rampa
Before forming under their own names, the husband-and-wife team of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi fronted their own bands in the mid-Nineties. They were already household names in the blues rock world. As Tedeschi Trucks Band since 2010, they are an absolute tour de force.
Trucks was twice named on Rolling Stone's Top 100 guitar players of all time (81 in '03 and 16th in 2011). Once on the verge of taking out a second mortgage to support the 12-piece band, they gained traction and trimmed the roster to a "lean" 11 members. Tedeschi's voice is a combination of Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin that is never overpowered by Trucks' blunt force shredding on his Gibson SG. This time around, they added a funky horn section worthy of backing Bruno Mars, and the brass shined throughout the night, be it collectively or during trumpet, sax or trombone solos. After coming to stage stealthily behind the wall of Marshall Stacks, they opened with a seven-minute jam and set the tone for the next 130 minutes.
For the devout fan, they performed select numbers off their latest, "Let Me Get By" the highlight being "Crying In The Rain/Swamp Raga for Hozapfel, Lefebre, Flute and Harmonium." A raga is a form of Indian classical music that was mesmerizingly performed on a lengthy flute solo by Kofi Burbridge. Eclectic covers were in ample supply. From George Jones's "Color of The Blues" to Leonard Cohen's "Bird On A Wire," the curveballs kept coming. Opener Amy Helm came out to perform Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," and her strong voice kept pace with Tedeschi's Joplin like chops.
Known for its blues rock roots due to Trucks' stint with the Allman Brothers and his own band, they incorporated soul, funk and even gospel culminating with Helm joining in on the Sly and the Family Stone closer "Let Me Take you Higher" that transformed the venue into a grandiose hands raised to the ceiling revival.
Given Trucks' affiliation with the Allmans, and the fact that Duane Allman basically helped invent Southern rock when he went to Muscle Shoals and played slide guitar, the opening slot is a tough ask. But Helm has some music history in her bloodline. She is the daughter of Levon Helm, the late drummer for The Band. This was her seventhth and final show on this tour, and she made it count. Her tight set featured songs from her first solo album, "Didn't It Rain" and the reception from the crowd to her band's capable and energetic musicianship nearly matched their affinity for the headliners.