I have to admit, I am not a huge Gov’t Mule fan. My knowledge of the band extends to knowing their lead singer and lead guitar player, Warren Haynes, because he has guested with Dave Matthews Band at a few of their shows. But like any good music fan, I was willing to give them a try. So to get ready for their show at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia Friday night, I plugged in my ear buds while at work that day and listened to their music.
First, it was totally surreal walking up to the Tower Theater. With the death of Chris Cornell still fresh in my mind, the last time we had been to this venue was to see the first night of a two-night stand Temple of the Dog played in Philly. I was so full of excitement that night in November, and so sad last night knowing that I would never have the chance to see them again (#justbuythetickets).
The crowd attending the Gov’t Mule show was very interesting. It was definitely a male-dominated crowd, which is a good thing for the line at the ladies’ bathroom! The crowd was also dominated by 50+ year olds that were clearly jam band fans. But, there was also a group of 20 something males that really seemed to be into the music as well. Unfortunately, we had a row of them sitting behind us, and while they were clearly fans of the music, they also chose to talk over the music almost the entire show.
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Chris Robinson Brotherhood
The opener for the show was a pleasant surprise – The Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Yes, that is the same Chris Robinson who was the lead singer of The Black Crows. The CRB was formed by Chris in 2011 as a side project while The Black Crows were on hiatus. They are a blues band, with that rockabilly sound that Chris’ voice lends itself perfectly to. Download their latest album Barefoot In the Head here.
CRB came on stage at 7:30 p.m., and jammed for almost an hour, which is really long for an opener. Like most “jam bands”, their songs are long and take a lot of different directions depending on what the band is feeling that night. They opened their set with a cover of The Byrds song “Lazy Days”. Chris sounds as good as he did during the days of The Black Crows, and the rest of the band are very talented musicians. The highlight of the set for me was when they played “Rosalee”, which is a definite blues influenced rock song that shows off Chris’ voice, as well as contains some great guitar work. You can see the full set list at www.setlist.fm/setlist/chris-robinson-brotherhood/2017/tower-theatre-upper-darby-pa-33e7ec01.html. The band is touring all summer and into the fall at various small venues as well as several music festivals and fairs. They are definitely worth checking out if they come to your area. Check out their website for more information and tour dates at www.chrisrobinsonbrotherhood.com.
For those of you not familiar with Gov’t Mule (which was definitely not anyone in the audience last night – all die-hard fans!), they were formed in 1994 as a side project by guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody of The Allman Brothers Band. Their music is described as southern rock, and they are truly a “jam band”. In fact, seeing them inside a theater was a little bizarre. I felt like I should be outside on the grass at a music festival to get the full vibe of the band and its music.
Since its formation, the band has released 10 studio albums and several live releases. They’ve become a staple on the music festival scene, and based on the crowd last night, have a very devoted following that are fanatical about their music.
Mule came on stage shortly after 9:00 p.m. and outside of a 20 minute intermission between sets, played until around midnight. They opened up their set with a cover of The Allman Brothers Band song “Dreams”, and played a mix of originals (including some songs from their new album) as well as various other covers throughout the night.
Just a day after learning of the death of Chris Cornell, as with many bands, they paid tribute to Chris throughout the show. In their first set, they did a fantastic cover of Soundgarden’s “Fell on Black Days”, which had the crowd singing along and holding up their hands to honor the late singer. During their second set when playing “Lay Your Burden Down”, Warren said he never asked much of his fans, but were asking them to do him a favor. He asked that everyone sing loud to honor Chris. Again, being in the same room that I last saw Chris Cornell perform with Temple of the Dog, it was a really emotional moment in the show.
One of my favorite moments of the set was their all instrumental cover of Bob Marley & The Wailers’ “Lively Up Yourself”. The lights throughout the show were great, but it was particularly cool to see the yellow and green Jamaican colors lighting up the stage while Warren was playing the melody on his electric guitar.
The band wrapped up its first set by bringing Chris Robinson and Neal Casal from The Chris Robinson Brotherhood back on stage. Chris sang lead vocals as the band covered The Black Crows’ song “Sometimes Salvation”.
After two full sets, the band took a quick break before their encore. The encore started with just Warren and keyboardist Danny Louis on stage with an amazing cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. Warren’s vocals were really strong, and his guitar work was amazing. After slowing things down with “Hallelujah”, the rest of the band came back on stage and they finished strong with heavy rocker “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground”. Interestingly, missing from the set list was “Soulshine”, which is one of their more popular and recognizable songs. You can see the entire set list at www.setlist.fm/setlist/govt-mule/2017/tower-theatre-upper-darby-pa-2be7ec02.html.
This is definitely a band you need to see if you are a fan of good old fashioned rock. While I wasn’t familiar with their music going in, anyone can appreciate the talent of these musicians, their passion for their music, and the devotion of their fan base.
Gov’t Mule is about to wrap up the spring dates of their North American tour in support of their new album “Revolution Come…Revolution Go”, which will be released June 9th. You can download Revolution Come…Revolution Go here. They’ll be heading to Europe in June, before coming back to North America later in the summer. You can find all of their tour dates on their website at http://mule.net/.