Tedeschi Trucks Band on fire for ACL debut

All good things come to an end, and so it is with our 41st taping season. But we went out with a flourish, courtesy of Tedeschi Trucks Band. Co-leader Susan Tedeschi is no stranger to these shores, of course, having appeared on Austin City Limits before in seasons 24 and 29. But this is the first appearance of TTB, the band she formed five years ago with husband/master guitarist Derek Trucks. Mixing new material from the forthcoming LP Let Me Get By with choice covers, many drawn from the twelve-piece’s recent tribute show to Joe Cocker’s legendary album Mad Dogs and Englishmen, TTB gave us a memorable performance that perfectly closed out the season while being streamed live around the world to an audience of thousands.

The set began with the funky “There’s a Break in the Road,” a tune originally found on Tedeschi’s solo LP Back to the River. The band then jumped into the first of the new songs – “Don’t Know What It Means” found the pair trading solos over a soulful groove, with a side of a capella singing and sax solos. With no pause, Tedeschi then put her guitar to the side in order to give full reign to her scorching voice on a cover of the Box Tops’ “The Letter,” via its rollicking arrangement from Englishmen. The group returned to Let Me Get By for “Laugh About It,” an infectious slice of soul/pop that took on the aura of a gospel revival. Dipping back into the Mad Dogs’ repertoire, TTB took Cocker’s version of the Leonard Cohen standard “Bird On a Wire” and made it their own by virtue of a sparse arrangement and a stunning Tedeschi vocal. “She is Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin’s love child,” remarked Darren Addy who was watching the livestream on our ACLTV YouTube channel.  

Eschewing classic rock nostalgia for a bit, the band gave the audience another pair of samples from Let Me Get By. The shuffling jazz/funk title track put the spotlight on keyboardist Kofi Burbridge, while the jumping “I Want More” put Motown through its jam band paces with a gentle jazz coda. The group then revisited its Grammy Award-winning debut album Revelator for the silky smooth “Midnight in Harlem,” preceded by a smoky-improvised intro that had the crowd applauding Trucks’ every lick. Having thoroughly established their prowess for original music, TTB jumped back to Mad Dogs and Englishmen for a New Orleans-influenced reinterpretation of the Ray Charles-associated R&B tune “Sticks and Stones,” sung by backup singer Mike Mattison. Mattison and Tedeschi then took on a cover of Derek & the Dominos’ “Keep On Growing,” as Trucks laid down licks that would make Eric Clapton proud.

The band then dug deep into the blues, taking Tedeschi back to her roots with a searing cover of Bobby Blue Bland’s “I Pity the Fool” – an appropriate choice, since Tedeschi shared her first ACL episode with Bland back in 1998, and one that allowed her to show off her own formidable six-string skills. Tedeschi Trucks Band ended the main set with “The Storm,” the centerpiece of second LP Made Up Mind. An extended intro gave Austin jazz king Ephraim Owens (last seen on our stage backing Mumford & Sons) plenty of space to bounce off of Trucks’ spurts of guitar, before Trucks and Tedeschi bashed out the blues-rocking main riff, the group locked into the 70s soul groove and there were solos all around. The crowd went wild – “They are on fire tonight!” enthused YouTube viewer LIZISHIELDS 1.

But of course, that wasn’t the end. As Tedeschi announced that it was their last show of the year, the band returned to the stage to close out the running themes. “Anyhow” was the final new song of the evening, and an easygoing, 70s-style soul groove it was. The show finally came to a climax with “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” the Ray Charles hit essayed by Cocker and his Mad Dogs and given new life by TTB via round robin vocal lines and a traditionalist bent to the original R&B arrangement. It was a slam-bang finish to a blazing set that both live and online audiences loved, and a fine way to bring our 41st taping season to a close. “Excellent direction,” commented YouTube viewer Stu Levitan. “Whole production excellent!” We can’t wait for you to see this performance when it airs as a full-hour episode on February 13th, 2016 on your local PBS station.