The secret to a happy ending is knowing when to roll the credits…but not tonight!
When Patterson Hood uttered those words during “World of Hurt”, there was no doubt he was trying to convince himself as much as those in the crowd. It’s no secret that Drive-By Truckers have had their share of hurt over the years, and the veterans of that band who rocked the Boulder Theater for almost 3 hours last night did nothing to hide their battle scars. Having seen the Truckers over a dozen times now, I have to say this was a very different experience than any that came before. The music was incredible (as always) and I’ll never complain about a Cooley-heavy setlist, but there was no escaping the void. It wasn’t just the absence of Shonna and Neff, it wasn’t just the memory of Craig, and it wasn’t just the ‘extremely out-of-place, smiley-mess’ Matt Patton — it was all of that, and something more.
Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley have always been the backbone of this band, but last night they seemed like they were just doing a job. They did their job extremely well, but their hearts and souls weren’t in it. Patterson usually leaves everything in a pool of sweat on the stage; last night I feel like he left it on the bus. After seeing the talkative side of Cooley on his recent solo tour, I would have expected him to pick up where Patterson fell in the personality department, but not a word escaped his mouth that didn’t belong to a song.
If this were my first Truckers show, I probably would have left impressed by an extremely good band, but there were very few newbies in the crowd last night, and those who were watching close enough witnessed an extremely good band on autopilot — something I never thought I would say about the Drive-By Truckers.
There have been countless glowing reviews of DBT shows on this blog already, so I don’t have to tell you how much I enjoy the ‘rock shows’. Last night’s show was no exception in that department. I was front and center when they took the stage, and I didn’t leave until the last song was done. Aside from the obvious classics, I was extremely stoked to hear “Tornadoes”, “Road Cases”, “Love Like This” and “The Company I Keep”. However, I was surprised at how many of the slower, darker songs there were. Usually the Truckers are genius at changing it up on the fly based on the crowd response, but last night we were all going to the dark place, like it or not. I, for one, really like the dark place, some of their best lyrics and riffs come from the bowels of our country, but usually they seem to enjoy playing them more. Last night Patterson looked as if he were in physical pain, and maybe he was, he did make comments about drinking a lot of cough syrup, but here’s where the real issue became apparent — it’s not that the band was out of sync with the crowd, it was that they were out of sync with each other either. Actually, I should rephrase that as ‘one of these guys was not like the others’…
Matt Patton. Shonna’s replacement. What the hell man? No offense, but no one came here to see you. So why can’t you just chill out and play bass? Shonna never tried to grandstand. What are you trying to prove? You look like a kid who just snuck on stage with your idols. I have nothing against your playing, but your whole attitude and stage presence is bizarre, irritating, and worse of all, extremely distracting. Please stop. Thank you.
When I interviewed Cooley a few months ago, he was so bright on the future. He said how much he was looking forward to recording new material with the new band. He mentioned how him and Patterson had gotten past all the bullshit and had a great working relationship. The way he spoke about it, I expected great things — despite the turn-over. When Isbell left the band, they went into the studio and recorded Brighter Than Creation’s Dark. I love that album. The tour that followed contained some of the best Truckers shows I have ever witnessed. But last night lacked any new material. And if Cooley ever acknowledged the other members of the band while on stage, I must have blinked and missed it. But the one place Cooley stepped up is with his songs, performing material from almost every DBT album. And I guess that’s all that really matters in the long run.
The encore really summed up the mood of the evening. “Birthday Boy” and “Girls Who Smoke” explore the impermanence of youth and the fear of becoming old and irrelevant. “A World of Hurt” claims that everything in life, even the good things, are painful. “Shut Up and Get on the Plane” is about facing the hard truth that everybody dies and there’s nothing you can do about it. And then there’s Jim Carroll’s “People Who Die” — a staple show closer for years now. The difference with last night’s version is that it was the first time Patterson showed any real emotion the whole evening. That emotion was actual pain and anguish. After throwing his guitar at his tech, he exercised his demons through song. As he leaned over the crowd, screaming “Those are people who died, died!!! They were all my friends, and they died!!!”, you could almost see Craig’s face reflecting in his eyes. But as they band walked off the stage, I couldn’t help but wonder if this is the beginning of the end of Drive-By Truckers? Is that why this set seemed so full of sorrow and regret?
Or did Patterson just have a cold?
I really can’t say. Maybe it’s the end. Maybe I’m just being dramatic.
There was a part of me that wanted to go to the second show tonight, just to see if the mood was different, but there was another part of me that just couldn’t get this image out of my head…
A Ghost to Most
Sounds Better in the Song
(Something’s Got To) Give Pretty Soon
Drag The Lake Charlie
Where The Devil Don’t Stay
Women Without Whiskey
Box of Spiders
Carl Perkins’ Cadillac
Self Destructive Zones
Play It All Night Long
Love Like This
The Company I Keep
Girls Who Smoke
Three Dimes Down
A World Of Hurt
Shut Up And Get On The Plane
People Who Died