As the buses made their way down Montgomery Street towards the Crouse Hinds Theater, The Tedeschi Trucks Band began to prepare for an evening of what would become an epic night of music to a sold out venue in Syracuse, New York.
Opening the evening to the packed crowd was Amy Helm. Amy hails from Woodstock, New York and with music in her bloodline, from the moment she took the stage, she began to play and sing and own the crowd. With her trio of Handsome Strangers, made up of guitarist Daniel Littleton, bassist Byron Isaacs and drummer David Berger, this most talented group of musicians played and sang like a well oiled machine.
Amy’s style of music can best be described as contagious. As you watch her perform, it’s as though the music is progressing from her toes, making its way through her body and pouring out with full emotion and electricity. The versatility of sound she displays is also noteworthy. Her music fluctuates from soulful and moody to a rockabilly jive with a seamless transition, providing a tantalizing variety of tastes pleasing to everyone. As Helm’s delivery drew the audience in, the rest of the band delivered a one-two punch of a percussive background beat, a funkadelic bass line and sick guitar solos that brought the audience to their feet. Just as they finished their solos, Amy stepped back up to the mic and hit everyone with a knockout vocal punch, sealing people’s fates as fans forever. To say she is amazing doesn’t seem like quite enough.
It was the moment she dedicated “Gloryland”, a song taught to her by her father who passed in 2012, to those waiting on the other side that really moved me most. This acoustic number, in perfect harmony with her Handsome Strangers, sent chills down my spine and left not a dry eye in the audience. Levon Helm, your daughter is amazing and you taught her well.
As Helm exited the stage for the main act to appear, the audience grew with anticipation before the lights dimmed and Tedeschi Trucks Band (TTB) took the stage. This large ensemble took up the whole stage and, although a large production, each member is a specific ingredient within a recipe of musical genius. With the husband and wife team of Derek Trucks on guitar and Susan Tedeschi on guitar and vocals out in front, they surrounded themselves with some of the most talented musicians in the business. On keyboards and flute was Kofi Burbridge, drums and percussion featured Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson, bass guitar work was provided by Tim Lefebvre and on harmony vocals was the trio of Mike Mattison, Mark Rivers, and Alecia Chakour. The horns rounded out the team with Kebbi Williams on saxophone, Elizabeth Lea on trombone and Ephraim Owens on trumpet. This amazing group of musicians are one in themselves talented and together they blended seamlessly, but not overpoweringly, as they accompanied Tedeschi and Trucks on their play out front.
Never having seen this amazing band before, the bar had been set high from all the hype I’ve heard. Although eager to see what all the fuss was about, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I purposely didn’t listen to any music beforehand so that my initial response was pure and in the moment. As they began to play, I was mesmerized by Susan’s voice. Her no nonsense approach to attacking each note was confident and strong. She was a woman that knew what she wanted to sing and play and that she did. As her husband Derek accompanied her on his guitar, the strings would sing. Together they melded into one sound.
I would classify TTB as a multi-genre act. They were funky, bluesy, rocking, and soulful. They encompassed sounds and transitioned from one sound to the next without effort or pause. I found Susan Tedeschi’s vocals real and raw. She has the ability to reach in and grab your soul while she sings and plays. As they played “Sky Is Crying” , it was as though she and Derek were making love with their guitars right in front of you. They matched note for note with a fervor that grew and exploded into one of the most moving pieces of the evening. I almost felt as though I was intruding on their moment and witnessing something meant for just the two of them. It was spectacular.
It was apparent all night that as they played, these fans in the audience were just as in love with them as I was. My favorite moment of the night was when Tedeschi asked her singer Alecia Chakour and Amy Helm to join her onstage for “Color of the Blues”, an amazing acoustic number. There was so much talent in that group that it blew me away.
It was an honor to cover this show and now I get it. I get the hype, the build up and the all the legends I had heard. The show was amazing and definitely lived up and surpassed my expectations.
Setlist Tedeschi Trucks Band: Laugh About It, Anyhow, I Want More, Midnight in Harlem, Just As Strange, Right on Time, Let Me Get By, Sky is Crying, Color of the Blues (joined by Amy Helm and Alecia Chakour), Keep on Growing, Going Down to Mexico, Bound for Glory, Idle Wind. Encore: Don’t Let Me Slide, I Cannot Make It