OAKLAND — Tedeschi Trucks Band‘s Susan Tedeschi stood in front of fans Saturday night—the second of two shows at the Fox Theater—and asked if anyone had been there the night before.
“It’s going to be a completely different show,” she declared.
Just like snowflakes and fingerprints, every extended set performed by the 12-member rock group is unique. The band Tedeschi helms with her husband, former Allman Brothers guitarist Derek Trucks, is known for its intricate and sophisticated jams, propelled by two drummers, and guided by Trucks’ unparalleled slide guitar pyrotechnics.
Tedeschi Trucks Band launched into “Hard Case,” from its latest album, Signs. The resulting wall of sound was intricate and dynamic, punctuated by cool brass stabs from the horn section and buttressed by the immensity of the rhythm section.
Tedeschi strapped on a guitar apparently signed by some of music’s biggest names for the second song, “Do I Look Worried,” off 2013 album Made Up My Mind. Trucks ripped into a solo with a glass slide on his finger, making his presence felt for the first time that evening. The resulting satiny chainsaw tone evoked a charge in the air. The band’s intensity kept perfect pace with Trucks, as the blonde, ponytailed guitarist built his extended solo out of slithery phrases.
The band’s next wall of sound grew from a lone piano with the backing singers adding a gospel-like quality as they tackled Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire.” Tedeschi delivered some vocal gymnastics as the group drove the song to a crescendo. But even with the band’s incredible technical ability, the virtuosity never upstaged the emotional intensity.
Trucks delivered some wah-wah-inflected scratches amid blasts from the horn section on “Walk Through This Life,” from Signs.
Tedeschi took a well-earned break as vocalist Mike Mattison delivered some serious soul on a cover of Sleepy John Estes’ “Leavin’ Trunk.” After an extended organ solo, Trucks stepped to the front of the stage to deliver another six-stringed testimonial, but instead of launching into another virtuosic ascension, the guitarist, bent over his iconic Gibson SG, brought the music way down as he and the band explored the intricate inner workings of the groove. That was until Elizabeth Lea returned the musical intensity to its fever pitch with a breathtaking trombone solo that attested to an almost superhuman lung capacity.
During their cover of Elmore James’s “The Sky is Crying,” Trucks delivered some smooth blues licks he likely picked up during his recent touring with Eric Clapton. The backing band took a break, leaving Trucks and Tedeschi to trade solos over the drummers and the rocksteady bass playing of Brandon Boone, who joined Tedeschi Trucks Band at the end of last year. While Trucks’ solo was mellow and graceful, Tedeschi unleashed a fiery and much more muscular guitar solo in a wonderful musical counterpoint.
The backing band returned for an extended jam on “Idle Wind” during which drummers Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson embarked on an epic drummer duel that rumbled and shook the cavernous venue for somewhere in the neighborhood of eight minutes. After so so much drumming, the passage of time becomes difficult to measure.
The band returned and reprised “Idle Wind” to close out the first 60-minute set of the evening. The second set was, no doubt, much different from the first, as the band has a knack for switching things up and stretching things out.
This story originally misnamed the title of Tedeschi Trucks Band’s new album, Signs. RIFF regrets the error.