We knew in advance that this show was the special 40th anniversary tribute to the original recording of the Fillmore East album. Of course, that made it impossible to avoid comparisons with the 35th anniversary performance, at which the band played the Fillmore album straight through in its entirety. Not surprisingly, they did the same thing tonight, even following up with “Mountain Jam” (since the original record faded as “Jam” was teed up, and fans had to wait till Eat a Peach came out to actually hear it.)
This was a real kickass Saturday night show, with a different and more muscular feel than the celebration on the 35th, which if memory serves (and it seldom does these days) was more light and airy…
But the show starts, and when you hear Duane’s voice over the PA announce that “we’re cuttin’ our third album here tonight,” it gives you chills. “Statesboro Blues” features shots of Duane and the early band in the background, and the rest of side one—“Done Somebody Wrong,” “Stormy Monday”—flow by; in the latter, Derek hands off to Warren, who pulls an ovation from the house as he solos into the final verse.
“Stormy” segues directly into “You Don’t Love Me.” Warren and Derek get their jaunt on. Warren squares of with Oteil, and together they bring us into another little melody that loops the long way around back into the core song and the Derek/Warren twin riffing… instead of exploring “Soul Serenade” as on the original, the band moves directly into “Hot ‘Lanta.” Greg lays down the colorful bed, Warren lays out some smoky, late night licks. The vibe has definitely descended.
“Elizabeth Reed” is divine. Twelve, 15 minutes, not a second is wasted. The band crescendos, hits the transition licks, and the house erupts. Gregg thrills the crowd with his familiar organ part, then Warren is smoldering all over the song. The band recedes, a nice little Warren exposition over drums, a “Les Brers” tease, then suddenly the band is hurtling full-on forward into the closing riffs… the briefest of drum breaks, the final read of the theme, and bam! Point made. We go nuts.
The band takes a moment as they bask in and return the love, then Oteil drops the “Whipping Post” bomb. Derek pulls on the reigns, stopping time; then slowly starts it up again, tossing off high ticklish curly lines. The band twists the charging melody inside out, then back as they race headlong to the end, barely keeping the wheels on, in total command, slamming into the “Sometimes I feel…” part.
The set ends as Butch gives the timpani opening to “Mountain Jam” that fades out on the record.
Predictably (and as on the 35th anniversary), the second set opens with “Mountain Jam.” Butch and Derek drift off down the mountain stream, the band runs through the piece, until Warren brings the jam to a halt and launches into “Trouble No More,” a short, fast pulverizing version. Then a dedication I don’t catch, but which I assume is to Red Dog, and then a slow blooz “Sky is Crying.” David Hidalgo of Los Lobos (and an obvious Warren crony; I’ve seen him with Mule more than once) joins the band for a slower-than-usual “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’.” Hidalgo sings the second verse; the song is wavy goodness. Next is “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” more sticky blues. Hidalgo leaves, and a powerful “Every Hungry Woman” that features the evening’s bass/drum solo slot; Oteil caps his bass section with a deep note that I feel in my chest in the loge. Out of the drums, Derek and Warren convene around the rhythm, lead threads of lead and rhythm guitar lines together into one dark red stream, then onto the twin licks, from which emerge the insistent drum beat that is, of course, the back end of the “Mountain Jam” sandwich. Beautiful, full of grace, even including trilling birdcalls. The encore, “No One Left to Run With,” is tight, life-affirming, and largely jam-free as befitting its place in the set.