Drive-By Truckers bring The Rock Show back to Denver

When I interviewed Patterson Hood before this Drive-By Trucker weekend in Denver, I asked him about the ‘harsh realities‘ of the road. Those realities that almost broke up the band and were documented in A Secret To A Happy Ending.  The answer he provided led me to believe that touring was no longer an issue for the band, but I think that might have been somewhat misleading.

The boys (and girl) from Alabama made their way through the Mile High City on their way home this weekend.  Two nights at the Ogden and an acoustic performance from Patterson and Jay at Twist & Shout and then they were free to go home…home to their wives, their kids, their own beds.  A two-week break before they start the next leg in South Carolina before heading back across the pond.  Patterson didn’t have a lot to say in between songs this time around, but when he did, it was about how much he was looking forward to getting home.  The road continuing to take its toll.

The original Drive-By Truckers, the guys who once called themselves Horse Pussy, started out in London two months ago before coming back to meet up with the rest of the band and tour the East Coast, then the West Coast and then across the country and through Denver.  That was a story I was lucky enough to hear three times this weekend.  That story, along with 50-something unique songs over a total of 6 hours  was enough to make me forget I wasn’t at SXSW this year!

Over the years I have been to countless Truckers show at countless venues and have witnessed the majority of their discography performed live in one form or another.  I have stated more than once my belief that Drive-By Truckers are the best live act out there and this weekend did nothing to chance my stance on that.  Patterson started the set at Twist & Shout talking about how burnt out they were from touring non-stop and how much they wanted to get home, but that did nothing to stop them from performing for close to 3 hours each night, doubling the set time of the average touring band today.  Not only do they perform all night, they give their fans a different show every night.  Over the course of this weekend we were not only treated to all but a few songs from the new Muscle Shoals-influenced Go-Go Boots, we also witnessed a full album’s worth of Southern Rock Opera, and at  least half of both Decoration Day and The Dirty South.  And as if that wasn’t enough, they dug deep into their catalogue and performed no less than a half dozen tracks from Pizza Deliverance and Gangstabilly.

The Twist & Shout performance was more like a Storytellers episode than a ‘rock show’.  Just Patterson, Jay, a guitar and an accordion.  The show started at 4pm and lasted about a half hour before the autograph signing session.  Made up of material mostly from Go-Go Bo0ts, the set started out with Ray’s Automatic Weapon before Patterson let us in on the true story behind Used To Be A Cop. The story about the cop who used to pull his weapon on unsuspecting subjects and pull the trigger.  Sure, the gun was filled with blanks but it was enough to make the unlucky person on the other end of the barrel shit themselves.  As Patterson said, it was an effective crime deterrent, but not exactly legal.  Anyway, stunts such as these as well as burning down his ex-wife’s house was enough to get his badge yanked and earn him a spot in Patterson‘s prolific portfolio of Southern characters.

Eddie Hinton is another character that’s had an impact on the band and Patterson took some time talking about his mental problems, Reagan‘s decision to cut funding for the hospitals and how Hinton ended up spending his last years living in a park.  A real tragedy considering this was an artist that had the potential to be huge in the music industry.  Everybody Needs Love, one of the Hinton covers on the new album sounds so familiar, you’d swear it actually was the hit song it should’ve been.

The Twist & Shout session ended with the last track on Go-Go Boots, and one of my favorites, Mercy Buckets.  That was supposed to be the last song, but Nine Bullets was a welcome surprise and really got me excited for the night to come.  I will admit that most of these songs didn’t translate that well in a acoustic setting and my thoughts would wander, getting sucked into that hole that was left by the absence of the rest of the band, but I do think record store performances like this are important and are incredibly effective for selling albums.

Friday night was the party night!  We went with a big group of friends, got a good buzz before the show and the place was packed by the time the Truckers took the stage at 10:30pm.  They started the night with Used To Be A Cop but then went directly into a ‘greatest hits’ run of Where The Devil Don’t Stay, Sinkhole, Sounds Better In The Song and The Living Bubba before bringing us back to Go-Go Boots with my favorite song on the album, the heart-wrenching story of the girl from Pulaski, Tennessee.  The tone was set and it would be a night of balance…old stuff with the new, rockers with the slow-burners and Patterson and Cooley playing off each other like they have been for so many years.  Cooley actually got a lot more face-time than usual, performing at least 15 songs, which was a real treat for me.  Pulaski, Women Without Whiskey, Guitar Man Upstairs, Gravity’s Gone, Marry Me and Zip City were all highlights of the night.

The first set lasted close to 2 hours before they left the stage.  It took them around 10 minutes to come back out, but it was worth the wait.  A 45 minute encore that ended with an extended version of Buttholeville.

I have written so many review of DBT shows that I’m not going to go through the play-by-play here, but a few interesting facts about Friday were that they weren’t drinking Jack from the bottle onstage, Cooley really did take center stage more than usual and Shonna only sang one song, spending most of her time hiding in the shadows.  This leads me to believe that maybe they all arn’t as healthy as they were when they started this tour.  But healthy or not, they know how to put on a ‘rock show’ and I doubt anyone in the audience was disappointed.

So let me start out by saying that night #2 was the perfect continuation of the weekend.  After the party that was Friday night, I was in more of a subdued mood on Saturday.  I met up with a couple friends for a couple drinks beforehand and we got to the venue and staked out our spots a little earlier than the night before.  It wasn’t quite as crowded, which was nice for us.  By the time they took the stage, the place had packed in pretty good though.

The night got started the same time as it did on Friday, around 10:30, with Patterson putting his hands in the air and welcoming us ‘to night number 2!‘ before opening the show with the opening song on Go-Go Boots, I Do Believe.  And like the night before, he then passed the spotlight to Cooley, who went with 3 Dimes Down.  It was another night of balance between the two front-men and another night of Shonna hiding out of the corners.  She did perform two songs this time around, her original Dancin Ricky as well as a cover of Eddie Hinton‘s Where’s Eddie?.

Patterson had a bottle of Patron and Cooley had his Jack, but I only caught a couple swigs throughout the night…that, along with Shonna‘s back to the crowd quite a bit, reinforced my theory that not everyone was feeling 100% onstage.  But other than their demeanor, they did not let it affect the show.

Drive-By Truckers do not use setlists, they just go where the night takes them, and on Saturday the night took them deeper, into a more cerebral place.  If Friday night was your typical ‘rock show’, the ‘pound your beers and sing and dance until you puke‘ show, then Saturday was for the old timers…the smokers and the whiskey drinkers.  It was the ‘sip your bourbon and and nod your head in appreciation while Patterson and Cooley school you in the stories of the South‘ show.   So, like I said before, the perfect continuation or even ‘comedown’ from night #1.   But please don’t take this as a negative thing.  Songs like The Company I Keep, Cartoon Gold, Box of Spiders, Love Like This, Heathens, 72 (This Highway’s Mean) and Mercy Buckets?  A bad thing?  Never!  I actually didn’t think it could get any better until the night ended with Angels and Fuselage.

But…I can see where some might have been disappointed.  Those that weren’t there for the first night and were pounding beers and wanting a rock show might have been let down by how many slower songs were performed.  They might been sent home a little sober after a 10 minute song about a plane crash.  But for those of us in the crowd who have been around awhile, those of us who notice the added line about the Wisconsin unions in Puttin’ People on the Moon, those of us who notice they were just a little off on One of These Days, those of us who can yell ‘sing that one about depression!‘ with a straight face…for those of us, it was another great night with a band we consider family.

Setlist @ Twist & Shout: (Patterson and Jay acoustic)
Ray’s Automatic Weapon
Used To Be A Cop
The Thanksgiving Filter
Everybody Needs Love
Old Timers Disease
Mercy Buckets
Nine Bullets

Setlist 3/18: (click play to watch video)
Used to be a Cop
Where The Devil Don’t Stay
Sounds Better in the Song
The Living Bubba
Dancin’ Ricky
Everybody Needs Love
Carl Perkins’ Cadillac
Women Without Whiskey
That Man I Shot
3 Dimes Down
Go-Go Boots
Cartoon Gold
Bulldozers and Dirt
Birthday Boy
18 Wheels of Love
Get Downtown
Dead, Drunk, and Naked
Guitar Man Upstairs
Ronnie and Neil

Marry Me
The Boys From Alabama
Gravity’s Gone
A Ghost to Most
Mercy Buckets
Zip City

Setlist 3/19: (click play to watch video)
I Do Believe
3 Dimes Down
Puttin’ People on the Moon
Self Destructive Zones
The Company I Keep
Cartoon Gold
Box of Spiders
One of These Days
Dancin’ Ricky
Everybody Needs Love
Love Like This
Birthday Boy
Drag the Lake Charlie
Get Downtown
After the Scene Dies
Road Cases
72 (This Highway’s Mean)
Goode’s Field Road
Women Without Whiskey
Mercy Buckets
Marry Me
Lookout Mountain

Where’s Eddie?
Zip City
Hell No, I Ain’t Happy
Let There Be Rock
Shut Up and Get on the Plane
Angels and Fuselage