Over The Weekend: Drive-By Truckers, The Henry Clay People at House of Blues

Drive-By Truckers, The Henry Clay People
House of Blues
September 25, 2010

Better Than:
The Drive-By Truckers' SXSW show in March, when they methodically rushed through their new album.

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Drive-By Truckers

It's always interesting to see and hear how a beloved band's newest material is received by its crowds.

Often times, even the most adoring throngs can only muster up a few courtesy claps while they head for the beer lines or bathrooms as an unfamiliar tune gets cranking. And, given that the newest collection of DBT tunes, The Big To-Do, came out just this past spring, that result seemed a legitimate possibility.

But the songs that might have been ignored were now welcome--seasoned members of the DBT canon. And while the Drive-By Truckers have always displayed their ability to rock, on Saturday night at the House of Blues in Dallas, the southern-fried six-piece also proved they understand how to proffer a full-on performance.

Songs like the show-opening "The Fourth Night of My Drinking" (which featured a lush Hammond organ taking center stage, above even the three-guitar attack), "Drag the Lake Charlie", "Birthday Boy" and "The Wig He Made Her Wear" were not only as tight as could be, but were greeted to cheer-filled choruses and drunken-fan sing-alongs. The ability to blend in the newer material so successfully is proof that this is a band of road warriors excited to have recently kicked off their fall tour.

Adding to the showmanship of the evening, the stage was adorned with colorful and distinctive murals from artist, Wes Freed. Freed's Dali-meets-Pekinpah-style creations have been hugely responsible for the band creating an image above and beyond simply knowing how to down a bunch of Jack Daniels. And, actually, the coordinated illuminations of the murals were a fun part of the well-produced light-show. Such an effort provided a nice bit of extra value to the fans that have witnessed the group play so many times before with only the smell of stale beer adding to the ambience.

While the band, led by Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, obviously wanted to pimp the newest album, they were also ready to break out some tunes that aren't as recent. A punk-paced "Self Destructive Zones," a greasy, lick-filled "Three Dimes Down," and a room-quieting "Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife" served as proof that not only has DBT's Brighter Than Creations Dark aged well over the last few years, but that Hood and Cooley continue to be comfortable sharing the spotlight. With those two switching out not only lead vocals, but lead guitar duties as well (along with John Neff, who switched to pedal steel for a few songs), the set never sputtered or plodded along.

Understanding his surroundings, as the main set drew to an end, Hood played the opening notes to Southern Rock Opera's "Life in the Factory," and dedicated the almost decade-old tune to his "buddies in Slobberbone."

The jam-heavy encore of older tunes, which included "Zip City" (also from the seminal double-album that provided the band with their breakthrough), that followed also played to the sensitivities of the remaining crowd, which fit snugly in front of the sound board by that point.

Viewing the scene from the back of the remaining group of fans, the show's ending had a comfy, familial vibe that was also distinctly southern. And it was a distinctly Drive By Truckers way of saying, "See you next year."

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I'm a fan. But I have high expectations when it comes to their shows, and they haven't always met them. Such wasn't the case Saturday night, however.

By the way: The opening band, The Henry Clay People, was practically impossible to not enjoy. The youngsters are from California, but managed to offer a southern version of The Hold Steady's infectious, and sometimes nerdy, bar-room rock. The ramshackle energy of the band's two leaders, who happen to be brothers, was simply contagious and authentic. Closing their set with a youthful-yet-reverent version of "Born to Run," was one of the evening's top highlights.

Random Note: The last time Drive By Truckers came through in October of last year, Brent and Jess from Slobberbone joined DBT on stage for a song (the two bands are long-time friends). Not Saturday night, unfortunately. That might have had something to do with a simultaneously scheduled gig from the "world's greatest Slobberbone cover band", Whiskey Glass Eye, at Bryan Street Tavern on Saturday night. [Editor's Note: That Whiskey Glass Ey gig didn't disappoint either, featuring over an hour of Slobberbone performance and drunken, sweaty guest on-stage appearances from Rhett Miller and John Dufilho.]



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