It’s been eight years or so since I last saw Drive by Truckers, the Athens, Georgia rockers led by Patterson Hood, and while they stood out at my last experience seeing them, Sunday Oct. 19 at The Egg Performing Arts Center was a different case. While the band was louder than expected, the vocals kept the focus on the instruments.
Drive by Truckers play both kinds of southern rock – ballads and straight fire rockers. They flip-flopped between the two throughout the night, notably played a Franz Ferdinand-esque “Where the Devil Don’t Stay” followed by “The Opening Act” a slow number that found Hood channeling Van Morrison’s vocals. The at times feisty crowd cheered for “The Opening Act” which Hood previewed as a ‘different kind of song for a different kind of room,’ this being their first time at The Egg.
Keyboardist Jay Gonzalez shone throughout the night, a steady highlight in every way, especially on a song that could have been pulled from Tom Waits’ catalog. A honky-tonk song became story time/spoken word with Hood carrying on a ramble like Jerry Joseph or Arlo Guthrie on an extended “Alice’s Restaurant”.
The encore break resulted in four additional songs – Hood channeling Janis Joplin followed by “Bulldozers and Dirt” the song that garnered the most approval from fans and the most recognizable song of the evening. A ballad/rocker followed, then a fair amount of extended jamming ensued on the finale; each band member looping their instrument as they walked off stage, one at a time. By the time the house lights came up, a lackluster performance was the main takeaway this evening