Concert Review: Drive-By Truckers @ 9:30 Club (2/28/20)

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Drive-By Truckers (Photo from FB @drivebytruckers, photo cred: @sanjaysuchak)

On the first of two nights, the Drive-By Truckers brought the 9:30 Club alive with a 30-song, 2.5 hour set.

Yeah, 30 songs. 9:30 Club shows (at least the ones I go to) are usually about 90 minutes, starting at 9:30 and going until 11pm. But when I’ve seen Drive-By Truckers, they always seem longer and this had to have been the longest. They kicked off at 10pm and did not stop until just shy of 12:30am. Non-stop: no encore, no bathroom breaks, very little banter (I wouldn’t have minded a little more). Just an onslaught of southern rock n’ roll that spanned 19 years and 9 albums (plus covers).

The band leaned heavily on two pillars of their catalog: the recently released The Unraveling, and Southern Rock Opera, their best-known album, released in 2001 (seven songs from the new one, five from the old). The show opened with a track off of 2014’s English Oceans (“Made Up English Oceans”) before moving into three tracks from The Unraveling. They would jump around between a number of albums, but at times they would follow a certain clustering of songs. Those three from the Unraveling; tracks 1 and 2 from The Dirty South; another cluster of three from the Unraveling; 18 then 17 from Brighter Than Creation’s Dark; and toward the end, the first three tracks from their previous album, American Band, all in a row: “Ramon Casiano”, “Darkened Flags on the Cusp of Dawn”, and “Surrender Under Protest”. I don’t know how much time is spent on the sequencing of any given album, but this clustering of little album arcs in the setlist sequence gave the show a unique, seemingly-familiar feel. And if you’re used to hearing certain songs follow others, it gives a small visceral rush to hear exactly what your mind anticipates.

The band, fronted by Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, brought five players onto the stage. A drummer, a bassist, and a multi-instrumentalist that worked between keyboards and guitar. A comparatively tight crew for the sonic wall that blasted through the club. That said, this did sometimes feel like a quieter version of a DBT show. Cooley and Patterson took their turns on the songs they call their own, usually a couple at a time, but there were plenty of turns at quieter songs: “Angels and Fuselage,” “Rosemary with a Bible and a Gun”, “Tornadoes”, more. All of this was tempered by the louder, faster, grittier songs, for sure; maybe it was just that I put my ear plugs in earlier than usual…

Given the more political nature of recent albums, there was of course a more political feel to the show. Talk about ‘the wall’ and how Hood is old enough to remember when America said “tear down that wall” instead of building one. But they didn’t need to make direct address statements: the trio from American Band; the newer tracks “Thoughts and Prayers” and “Grievance Merchants”; these said plenty. The crowd was onboard – even if there was some thinning of the crowd as the how edged past midnight.

I’m a long-running fan, I’m in the bag for these guys, but this was still a show that stood out above others I’ve seen of them. This line-up is playing strong right now, the past two albums have been overall strong with some standout tracks, and this setlist was impeccably sequenced. Next time you get a chance to see them, see them.

Setlist

Made Up English Oceans
Rosemary With a Bible and a Gun
Slow Ride Argument
Heroin Again
Birthday Boy
The Righteous Path
Where the Devil Don’t Stay
Tornadoes
Women Without Whiskey
Armageddon’s Back in Town
The Unraveling is Happening
Gravity’s Gone
Play It All Night Long (Warren Zevon cover)
First Air of Autumn
Thoughts and Prayers
Grievance Merchants
Awaiting Resurrection
A Ghost to Most
Goode’s Field Road
Shit Shots Count
Dead, Drunk, and Naked
Guitar Man Upstairs
Sink Hole
Ramon Casiano
Darkened Flags on the Cusp of Dawn
Surrender Under Protest
The KKK Took My Baby Away (Ramones cover)
Lookout Mountain
Zip City
Angels and Fuselage

Author: Mathew Harkins

A writer and editor in Washington, DC.

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