Live Review: Tedeschi Trucks Brings Wheels of Soul to Providence

Tedeschi Trucks Band

Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks led a trio of bands to the Providence Performing Arts Center Friday for a memorable night of music. Along with road warriors Hot Tuna and The Wood Brothers, the “Wheels of Soul” tour was a splendid reminder of what rock and roll is all about. Funny thing is, nobody seems to want to call it that anymore.

Susan Tedeschi (Photo: Rick Farrell)

All three bands rocked the house – with guitar magic, clever songwriting, extending jamming, and audience sing-a-longs. The show reaffirmed the power of rock and roll.

Oddly, the Tedeschi Trucks Band isn’t always seen as a “rock” band. They won a Grammy Award in 2012 for their debut album Revelator in the “Blues” category. Even the branding of the tour might seem confusing. Don’t get me wrong, tunes like “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “Bound for Glory” are certainly soulful, but the band isn’t identified with what most consider to be “soul” music.

Fortunately, most in the crowd found meaning in the music. When was the last time you saw a “opening” act on a bill of three bands get a raucous standing ovation? Well, Hot Tuna got a well-deserved round Friday night. The Wood Brothers, unfamiliar to some in the crowd, fared the same. Reviewers are prone to hyperbole, and this one is sometimes guilty, but I’ll declare that the evening was a clinic in how to do rock and roll.

Jorma Kaukonen of Hot Tuna (Photo: Rick Farrell)
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Hot Tuna

Class was session early when the show began with the legendary San Francisco band Hot Tuna. The band was founded in 1969 as a side project to Jefferson Airplane, the main gig at the time for bassist Jack Casady and guitar extraordinaire Jorma Kaukonen.

Joined by Justin Guip on drums, the power trio tore through favorites like “Hesitation Blues” and “Good Shepherd.” Remarkably, their sound is still raw and their message still relevant. Well in their 70’s, Casady and Kaukonen tour regularly, a testament to their top-notch musicianship.

Wood Brothers

The popular indie folk band Wood Brothers followed with a high energy set. Behind the guitar and vocals of Oliver Wood, the jazzy bass of Chris Wood and the astute percussion of Jano Rix, the band leans nicely toward the acoustic side. Their songs are raucous, like the opener “I Got Loaded,” a friendly greeting to the crowd, many of whom were unfamiliar with the band.

The Wood Brothers Rocked PPAC (Photo: Rick Farrell)

Their set also included favorites “The Muse” and “Mary Anna,” a well-crafted tune about doubt and uncertainty…

“Of the two of us I know you’ve got the looks and all the charm
Every other day I’m humbled just to hold you in my arms
But lately I’ve been thinkin’ You might not give a damn
And I don’t wanna be nobody’s every other day man.”

Any remaining doubts were cast side when they closed with The Band’s “Ophelia,” an ode to their time spent with former member of The Band, Levon Helm.

Tedeschi Truck Band

The Tedeschi Trucks band is a rock and roll power couple, a husband/wife team, both extremely talented musicians. Susan Tedeschi, born up the road in Norton, MA, and Derek Truck, guitar phenom and nephew to Allman Brothers late drummer Butch Trucks, brought together a talented crew in 2010 and never looked back.

Their inspiring set included the opener “Anyhow,” with Tedeschi’s commanding vocals supported nicely by the horn section and Trucks’ nimble soloing. The band remained tight on “Laugh About It,” and “Keep on Growing,” the Derek and the Dominos classic.

Derek Truck at PPAC (Photo: Rick Farrell)

Things got a bit more adventurous as Trucks began drawing out the opening notes to the Beatles sitar inspired “Within You Without You.” Other highlights included the cover “Leaving Trunk,” and “Volunteered Slavery” – this was a show with a message.

Tedeschi briefly downsized to a quartet for a stunning version of the John Prine classic “Angel From Montgomery,” which segued into Jerry Garcia’s “Sugaree.”

The band never lets up, a fringe benefit of having a large ensemble where a “backup” singer can take lead at a moment’s notice. There were some prime examples at the show, with Mike Mattison taking over on “Get What You Deserve” and Alecia Chakour powering her way through a soulful “Bound for Glory.”

Overall, the evening had an old-time ”rock and soul review” feel. All three bands raised the PPAC ceiling a few inches higher, as well as the spirits of those present.

Head back to PPAC later this month when Elvis Costello and the Attractions bring their “Imperial Bedroom and Other Chambers Tour” to town. Check their complete upcoming schedule here.