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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Drive-By Truckers show a rare treat

Thursday, October 7, 2010

(Photo)
Jay Gonzalez, John Neff, Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, Shonna Tucker, Brad Morgan of the Drive-By Truckers played the Vogue in Broad Ripple Sunday night.
INDIANAPOLIS -- How is it that one of the best bands working in America today can play a concert at a relatively small venue like Broad Ripple's Vogue (capacity around 1,000) and not sell it out? It's a comment on something, but this writer can't figure out quite what.

Maybe it's the economy. Maybe it's the state of the Indianapolis music scene. Maybe it's our attitude toward music in general.

Once Sunday night's concert started, though, none of that really mattered. The Truckers still attracted a good-sized crowd, and those of us in attendance got what we expected: a strong, rockin' performance from one of the best acts in the business.

More than a decade on the road can cause some acts to grow stale, but for this southern rock collective, the years seem to be making them stronger. While lineup changes over the years have likely kept thing fresh, it's evident in the live show that the two constants over the years -- singers and guitarists Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley -- are what keep this band truckin'. (Please excuse a terrible joke.)

Cooley is calm in presence, delivering his songs -- even the rockers -- with a down-home eloquence rarely seen in music played at this volume. His voice is the same live on songs like "Gravity's Gone," "Women Without Whiskey" or "Birthday Boy" as it is on albums: strong, nicotine-stained and steady.

And to Cooley's yin, there is Hood's yang.

Hood is a mercurial presence on stage, changing the delivery of lines, changing words altogether and working the crowd like a true rock star (which he is, even if you've never heard of him). When he occasionally ventures to the front of the stage and stikes a guitar god pose, he pays homage to the '70s rock icons he's known for talking and singing about.

The band works this relationship to a T in the live show, rotating between songs from the two principal singer/songwriters. After Cooley delivered the relatively calm "Uncle Frank," Hood picked it back up with the band's muscular cover of Warren Zevon's "Play It All Night Long." When Cooley and the band rocked out to "Shut Up and Get on the Plane," the tempo slowed to the calliope introduction to Hood's "Flying Walendas."

With the two frontmen playing off each other, third guitarist and pedal steel player John Neff quietly held down the fort to their right. Bassist Shonna Tucker, drummer Brad Morgan and keyboardist Jay Gonzalez all played their roles perfectly as well, providing backing work to the two men in front.

However, the backup role may have been taken a bit far at Sunday's show. Regardless of lineup, this band has always been stacked with top-notch musicians at each position. The mixing at the show, though, didn't let this shine through. While any three-guitar attack is going to be heavy on the instrument, it was a struggle to hear the other instruments, which is unfortunate.

Likewise, on Tucker's one and only song, "It's Gonna Be I Told You So," you could barely hear her voice. It would have been nice to hear more than one Tucker song and to actually hear her voice on them.

In spite of this all, though, it was a great show. The song selection was perfect. While it's hard to go wrong anywhere in the DBT catalog, it's reaffirming as a fan to know the band would choose most of the same songs as you.

The band also knows how to finish a show off right. A six-song encore concluded with "Let There Be Rock," Hood's homage to the favorite bands of his youth, followed by a cover of Van Halen's "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love."

It was a great reminder that those guys up on stage are fans just like we are.