Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks are no strangers to the Rochester area. They’ve both been frequent visitors since their beginnings – forming a mutual love affair with the area’s music fans. Tedeschi Trucks Band have made it a point to stop here on every one of their tours, making Wheels of Soul their fifth area visit in just as many years.
Derek and Susan (and management) have proven themselves to be curators with exceptional taste and vision. Each of their Wheels of Soul tours have come with its own distinct flavor. The lineups have been soulful one year, rocking another, and folky another. Each year their own band fits in with their openers regardless, the ultimate chameleon that can match wits no matter the genre.
This year, rambunctious duo, Shovels and Rope, from Charleston, SC and Country-rock jammers, Blackberry Smoke, out of Atlanta, GA joined the Jacksonville, FL headliners for Southern-fried flavor on stage. The combo cooked-up a succulent, meaty and juicy flare, with a nice crispy exterior.
Playing for a fanbase that knows you inside-and-out leaves little room in the way of surprises. Surprise isn’t really TTB’s game though, and they wowed the judges with pure power and finesse. The band, still twelve-members strong, did bring some fresh meat since we last saw them. Gabe Dixon has taken over on keys and Brandon Boone is now on bass. They also come supporting a new album, Signs. They introduced the crowd to three of the new tracks, “I’m Gonna Be There,” “Hard Case” and “Signs, High Times.” “I’m Gonna Be There” was a clear highlight among those, with a slick and slow building solo that ended with Trucks’ guitar exhibiting its signature growl over the backup singers’ building vocals.
One of the elements of the Wheels of Soul tours that after five years fails to surprise, but nevertheless always wow’s, is when Tedeschi Trucks Band brings out their openers for a guest spot or two. This year Charlie Starr from Blackberry Smoke, plus Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst from Shovels and Rope emerged for a cover of Leon Russell’s “Stranger in a Strange Land.” Despite the clear talent both openers exhibited in their sets, this performance didn’t rise to the high expectations of past guest spots.
One of the reasons for Derek and Susan’s strong connection with Rochester is the champion they’ve found in local radio personality Brother Wease. As a thank you for his consistent support, Tedeschi lead a stripped down quartet on an emotional interpretation of John Prine’s “Angels of Montgomery” that she segued into Jerry Garcia’s “Sugaree” as the backing vocalists joined in. A stunning moment to be sure.
Not to be outdone, her husband closed the set in a ball of flames, turning “The Storm” into a full-on “Whipping Post” jam, pushing the set right up to the 11pm curfew. They couldn’t possibly leave this crowd hanging so they risked “getting in big trouble” by coming back out for a quick encore.
Shovels and Rope drew a great crowd for their early opening set that focused mainly on material from their 2019 release, By Blood. Each played a bevy of instruments, drums, guitars, keys, harmonica, on songs ranging from emotive ballads to fuzzed out rockers. The variety was all held together by their wonderful two-part harmonies and incredible songwriting.
Blackberry Smoke came out guns blazing, whooping up the crowd with their Allmans-esque Southern rock jams and fist pumping country rock numbers. It was a big and dense sound that kept it fun for even the least familiar listener, with a slew of heavy teases and jams that included “Third Stone from the Sun,” “Amazing Grace,” “When the Levee Breaks” and a foreshadowing “Mountain Jam.”
Tedeschi Trucks Band: I Want More, Don’t Know What It Means, The Letter, I’m Gonna Be There, Hard Case, Border Song, Down in the Flood, Swamp Raga > Midnight in Harlem, Part of Me, Angel From Montgomery > Sugaree, I Pity the Fool, Stranger in a Strange Land (with Charlie Starr, Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst), The Storm > Whipping Post.
Encore: Signs, High Times.
Blackberry Smoke: Fire in the Hole, Let It Burn, Believe You Me, Mother Mountain, One Horse Town, Ain’t Much Left of Me.
Shovels and Rope: I’m Coming Out, Hammer, The Devil is All Around, C’mon Utah, Birmingham, Forsaken Blues, Carry Me Home, Mississippi Nuthin’, I Know, The Wire, Hail Hail.