As the first note was played during the Wheels of Soul show at Artpark on July 17, it became an international endeavor. Our Canadian neighbors across the Niagara river hopefully gained a taste for the southern rock sound if they weren’t already familiar.
Although the amphitheater rests beside the bank of the river, the water is mostly hidden by trees that surround the venue, giving it a very lush sense of seclusion. The layout feels a bit jagged, as the GA lawn doesn’t directly face the stage, but is located on a slightly steep hill to the side. A large screen facing the lawn projecting the concert helps to remedy this, but it’s easy to feel slightly disconnected from the music.
This disconnect was triggered before even setting foot in the venue, as finding parking became a scramble to get a spot before missing the opening band. The Artpark signs for additional parking seemed to be leading us farther and farther from the venue, so in a panic we parked in a side yard patrolled by a middle aged man who rolled up to our window on a BMX bike, and in exchange for $5 pointed at the grassy hills in front of us exclaiming, “walk ten minutes that way and you’ll see it.” With eager anticipation and only a smidge of skepticism we hightailed it through the hills, quickly being immersed in a sea of waving yellow grasses that surrounded the path in every direction. We were soon joined on the path by flocks of other concert goers en route to the show, which combined with the beautiful scenery helped put our frantic minds at ease. Although some venues provide VIP parking for media personnel, this parking adventure definitely made for a better story.
We came through the upper entrance, where an immense flight of stairs beckoned us to descend toward the amphitheater where Marcus King Band had opened and Drive-By Truckers were now mid-set. The scene felt a little overwhelming between getting a lay of the land and navigating the throngs of humans scattered across the property. After nestling in a spot halfway up the grassy hill, it was time to go barefoot and settle in for the show.
Tedeschi Trucks Band started their set with “Bound for Glory,” an easy going but powerful tune off their first album. TTB kicked things up a notch with “Made up Mind” from their second album followed by a feathery flute intro to the lovely and triumphant “All That I Need.” Derek Trucks peppered the song with some trademark guitar work before the band quieted way down to build it back up to a full throttle jam like they do so well.
Susan Tedeschi put full force into her vocals for the ballad “Ball and Chain.” “Don’t Know What it Means” was once again concluded by a similar avant gard jam as the CMAC show, but the saxophone was definitely less abrasive this time. A powerful tidal wave guitar intro crashed into Tedeschi’s soft and sandy vocals for “Shame.” Tedeschi added a haunting echo effect to her mic that resonated through the park for a gripping end to the song. TTB brought Marcus King back to the stage for the bluesy Elmore James cover of “The Sky is Crying” where he wailed on guitar and vocals conjuring cheers from the crowd.
TTB elicited more cheers as they played the opening notes to John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery.” More applause followed as they executed a flawless transition into Grateful Dead’s “Sugaree,” with another gorgeous solo from Trucks midway through. That familiar opening guitar riff on “Laugh About It” led the band into the uplifting and empowering song before closing out their set with “I Want More,” a bouncy tune with a lyrical backbone. The song broke down a little at the end as it devolved into a somewhat muddy jam that did not serve as a strong ending.
Luckily TTB returned with a meditative intro into “Midnight in Harlem.” They closed out the night with Patterson Hood from Drive-By Truckers assisting on the Paul McCartney and Wings cover of “Let Me Roll It.” The TTB setlist overall provided a satisfying musical journey, dismantling and rebuilding the energy in a way that makes people fall in love with the band a little more every time they perform.
Setlist: Bound for Glory, Made up Mind, All That I Need, Ball and Chain, Don’t Know What it Means, Shame, Going Down Slow, The Sky is Crying, Angel from Montgomery/Sugaree, Laugh About It, I Want More
Encore: Midnight in Harlem, Let Me Roll It