It was a filled-to-the-brim evening of music at the Santa Barbara Bowl on June 7, when the Wheels of Soul Tour rolled into town with the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, plus special guest Doyle Bramhall II.
The evening started with blues rock Texas-style courtesy of Bramhall, who has been tapped by the likes of Eric Clapton and Roger Waters to contribute his fiery fretwork to their bands.
Next up was a generous set by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, “a full service show” of feel-good funk and soul music with tight horns and tight rhythms. Jones shined on the sultry “When You Love Me,” which she joked reminded her of a song from a James Bond movie, and on a fast and funky cover of “Heard It Through the Grapevine.”
But the one that brought the biggest cheers was “Get Up and Get Out,” which she explained had a new meaning after she was successfully treated for cancer, as in, “Cancer, you get up and you get out!” To the crowd’s delight, this one had Jones in firecracker mode showing off her energetic dance moves in a celebration of beating the demon.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band — named after gritty voiced Susan Tedeschi and her husband, Derek Trucks, and also with a killer horn and rhythm section — kicked off with the New Orleans funk of Allen Toussaint’s “There’s a Break in the Road,” which set the tone that it was gonna be a good time. This featured some smokin’ guitar from Trucks, who is recognized as one of the all-time great slide guitarists, a pursuit that requires a sharp ear and a precise touch but also allows a very high level of expressivity. Trucks got particularly hot with a transcendent guitar solo during “Idle Wind,” which also had Tyler Greenwell and JJ Johnson playing a cool drum duet. This was followed by the Southern fried funk of “Made Up Mind.”
Around 9 p.m., Tedeschi pointed out that on the East Coast it was Trucks’ birthday, and as a birthday treat they had Bramhall join in for the blues standard “Key to the Highway.” This seemed particularly fitting, as it is probably best known to rock fans from the version by Derek and the Dominos on the album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, the band featuring Duane Allman and Clapton that Trucks got his first name from.
The roles of those guitar heroes were nicely filled by Trucks, who was a longtime member of The Allman Brothers and bears more than a passing resemblance to Allman, and Bramhall, who as mentioned above spent time in Clapton’s band and whose hair even bore a resemblance to Clapton’s Cream-era perm.
Bramhall stuck around for “All That I Need,” which he co-wrote with Trucks and Tedeschi, and the show highlight — a cover of Etta James’ “Tell Mama,” which had Jones back onstage trading off impassioned vocals with Tedeschi.
The main set closed with “Bound for Glory,” which had a cool groove and a great organ solo and wah-synth solo by Kofi Burbridge, who himself has an Allman Brothers connection once removed as brother of former Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge. As the curfew approached, the band started their encore with the Blood, Sweat & Tears song “More and More,” which had background singers Mike Mattison and Mark Rivers taking the lead and really belting it out. The show closed with the bluesy number “The Storm.”
Although one felt that the Tedeschi Trucks Band had plenty of gas left in the tank, the Bowl curfew necessitated a close to the evening. But what an evening it was, thanks to the singing of Jones and Tedeschi, the guitar of Trucks and Bramhall, and a couple of amazing backing bands.
Setlist for the Tedeschi Trucks Band
» There’s a Break in the Road
» Idle Wind
» Made Up Mind
» Midnight in Harlem
» Key to the Highway
» All That I Need
» Tell Mama
» Bound for Glory
» More and More
» The Storm
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.