Review by: Steven Hefter
8656 Colesville Rd Silver Spring, MD 20910 301.960.9999
If Warren Haynes isn’t the hardest working man in rock & roll, someone please tell me who is!
On Saturday, November 3, Warren and his band Gov’t Mule made the relatively new Fillmore concert hall in Silver Spring, MD their home for the evening. I am glad they invited me and equally happy that I accepted.
The Fillmore opened September, 2011 and holds 2,000 people in a large 23,000square foot open design club with an upstairs balcony. The balcony has limited stadium-type seating (though I’ve never seen anyone actually sit) as well as VIP tables directly across from the stage.
According to their website, http://fillmoresilverspring.com/, the facade of the old JC Penny building that it used to be was preserved after sitting vacant for 18 years. It is a well-run operation with friendly staff, over-priced drinks, and large bathrooms downstairs. The lower level includes seating with closed circuit broadcasting of the shows.
This was the final night of the current Gov’t Mule tour, but given how fresh they sounded, you’d never have guessed it.
The Lee Boys, from Miami FL, opened the shows on this leg of the tour. They played a solid set of what they describe as “sacred steel”— Inspirational, hard rockin’, get-up-and-dance blues.
Roosevelt Collier is clearly the star of the band – smokin’ the pedal steel guitar, sitting for the most part, other times slinging it around his neck and dancing with the crowd. They played for about 45 minutes. Prior to their final song they invited Warren on to the stage, graciously thanked him, and then Warren and The Lee Boys launched into a an amazing, 8+ minute version of Voodoo Chile by Jimi Hendrix. Roosevelt Collier kept pace with Warren as they traded licks back and forth.
One of the coolest things about Warren is his love of showcasing other musicians. This was apparent as Warren stood back and let Roosevelt take the leads, which he happily did. It was a fantastic cover of this well-known guitar masterpiece. It must have been great to be a Lee Boy that night!
After a very short break The Mule hit the stage opening with a tune called World Boss. This is a new song they’ve been working on, I assume for an upcoming album. The band sounded great from my front row perspective. Warren’s voice was crisp and clear. His guitar playing was right in time and his usual bluesy, rockin’ self. It still amazes me that he has time for writing new material, given the crazy Gov’t Mule and Allman Brothers schedules. He also seems to appear with every band/guitarist there is!
The band jammed through the heavy tunes at the beginning of the 1 hour and 20 minute set. A magical version of Lively Up Yourself by Bob Marley & The Wailers alternated between soft and melodic to full on rocking! And it worked great. The band played I Believe to My Soul (Ray Charles) with Ron Holloway on sax. I wasn’t expecting the infusion of the horn but was blown away by Mr. Holloway and his sax-a-funk-a-phone! The final tune of the ten song first set ended with 32-20 Blues by Robert Johnson. In addition to the sax, the band brought out Hook Herrera on harmonica and wow, can he can play. The sax, harmonica, and The Mule combined for a full-fury finale.
The second set started with three separate covers: Working Class Hero (John Lennon) on which Warren’s vocals were dead-on. The sound system at the Fillmore really stood out that night and Warren took full advantage. This was followed by I’m a Ram by Al Green (I’m actually partial to the Roy Buchanan version), then Low Spark of High Heeled Boys by Traffic. I couldn’t help but wonder if having Steve Winwood headlining Mountain Jam this past summer influenced that decision. Ron Holloway almost stole this song with his bluesy interpretation of this classic. Warren’s vocals continued to impress me more and more as the night went on, especially during Low Spark. Also adding his soulful work on the keyboard was Danny Louis. This song was clearly a highlight of the night and Warren throwing in lyrics from the Doors’ Riders on the Storm at the end fit so well you almost forgot it wasn’t part of the original tune.
After a short drum solo by Matt Abts, and Warren telling the crowd that…”you know what time it is Silver Spring[s]” they played the bass-driven Thorazine shuffle. This was one of my favorites of the night – I tend to the heavier rocking tunes. Jorgen Carlsson was the train chugging the band on for this song. It features him playing a deadly-funky melody throughout with the band filling in around it. Warren’s guitar got a little spacey during this tune but it fit perfectly – maybe Thorazine is good stuff? I know this tune is!
After saying goodnight and coming back for the encore, Warren thanked The Lee Boys and said how much fun they had had with them on tour. He then invited Roosevelt Collier back on stage. Anticipation grew as the crowd guessed at what the encore would be and were thrilled when the band launched into Neil Young’s Cortez the Killer.
At this point I thought ‘Wow…what a fucking show!’ After a killer 14 minute version in which Warren outdid himself on the vocals and again he and Roosevelt traded the kind of guitar licks that make us go to these shows (Loudguitars baby!) and read these reviews, the band said thank you and good night.
The lights came up, the club music came on, the just as quickly the lights went off again, the crowd starting cheering, and Warren came back out and said, “This is our last night, we gotta blow it out in Maryland!” The band proceeded to play The Hunter (Albert King) Good Morning Little School Girl The Hunter. Hook took over the first part of The Hunter and sounded like a full-time member of the Mule (maybe he should be?) The crowd was eating it up when Ron Holloway joined Hook Herrera and the band during GMLSG and finished the show with them.
As with all music it’s hard to accurately capture the feelings flowing through the band to the crowd that night, but take my word, Warren’s hard work pays off. Thank you Warren! Peace.
Photos courtesy of Steve Hefter Photography
Warren Haynes – guitar, vocals
Matt Abts, drums
Danny Louis – keyboards, guitar
Jorgen Carlsson – bass
Hook Herrera – harmonica
Ron Holloway – saxophone
Broke Down on the Brazos
Game Face (Mountain Jam and Norwegian Wood Tease)
Lively Up Yourself (Bob Marley & The Wailers cover)
I Believe to My Soul (Ray Charles cover) (with Ron Holloway)
32-20 Blues (Robert Johnson cover) (with Ron Holloway & Hook Herrera)
Working Class Hero (John Lennon cover) (with Hook Herrera)
I’m a Ram (Al Green cover)
Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (Traffic cover) (with Ron Holloway)
Cortez the Killer (Neil Young cover) (with Roosevelt Collier)
The Hunter (Albert King cover) (with Hook Herrera)
Good Morning Little School Girl (Sonny Boy Williamson cover) (with Hook Herrera & Ron Holloway)
The Hunter (Albert King cover) (with Hook Herrera & Ron Holloway)