Gov't Mule stayed the course

Leader Bank Pavilion, Boston, September 9, 2021

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Gov't Mule has been around for 27 years at this point, and with ace guitarist Warren Haynes at the helm, the quartet gives no quarter to slowing down.

Not when you consider the band cranked out their version of southern rock and more over the course of two sets and about 140 minutes.

Haynes, who started the group as an offshoot of the Allmans for whom he was playing at the time. Gov't Mule has settled into a sturdy quartet with original drummer Matt Abts, bassist Jorgen Carlsson and keyboardist/guitarist/trumpet player Danny Louis.

That was evident from the start with "Rocking Horse." Haynes let loose on very steely guitar playing that extended for a while with the rest of the band kicking in.

They went jazzy on "Which Way Do We Run?," mixing up the tempos with a slower approach. Like other songs played throughout the night, Gov't Mule would settle in and ride the song.

Haynes understandably highlighted his multitudinous talents on guitar – and for almost the entire night, he stayed with just one, not typical for a guitarist. No histrionics from Haynes. Just lots of great playing such as on "Temporary Saint" among many other songs.

While a rock band at heart, of course, the band offered a few detours especially when Louis went for the trumpet on a few songs ("Which Way Do We Run?"). That's not the kind of instrument one would expect from a jam-oriented rock band, but, hey, it worked. "Stone Cold Rage" in the first set was a bit more lyrically centered than most of the songs.

Mule also typically went for covers with Link Wray's "Rumble," James Brown's "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine" and closing the opening set with Ann Peebles "I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody's Home." The set grew stronger as it went along with the band clicking especially in the second half.

The second set was about half covers starting with "Brown Sugar" (nope, not the Stones song, but that of ZZ Top with Haynes soloing for a few minutes before his band mates joined him) and then tackling "Can't You Hear Me Knocking?" by The Stones (they seem to do a Stones song every night) and later the Allman's "Kind of Bird." The latter featured Louis' keyboards on a song in which the group jammed on. Haynes' guitar playing simply took the song places.

From covers to their own material, Gov't Mule puts the emphasis on the music. Yes, it was a colorfully artistic show with some wonderful lighting throughout, but at the end of the night, Gov't Mule knows what has kept them in the game for so long and stayed the course.

Country singer Margo Price opened with a generally satisfying 45-minute set. If you didn't know that Price was a country singer beforehand, it's not all that clear that you would have thought so after the fact either. It was as if Price, who has a bunch of quality songs under her belt – some of them quite traditionally country – surveyed the crowd in advance and decided she should be a musical chameleon for the evening.

Price is to some extent anyway (she ventures more to folk when in a country friendly setting), but before a very small portion of the crowd, Price decided that a rock edge was the way to go. For a large portion of her set, Price was not all that easy to decipher vocally. The sextet tended to overwhelm her vocals with cacophony ruling at times.

Ah, but when she was, she's got a great set of pipes. She underscored that particularly on her take on Janis Joplin's blues rocker "Move Over." Not sure of the necessity of covering Joplin when one of her own songs would have done the same trick just fine.

This evening did not showcase the best of what makes Price the powerhouse that she typically is.


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