Gov’t Mule at Central Park SummerStage

Gov’t Mule at SummerStage (08/11/10)
Gov't Mule at SummerStage
Photo: Jon Klemm

Gov’t Mule Grinds On
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
by Brad Mislow

Relatively cooler late-summer NYC temperatures brought out the classic rock vibes, and copious classic rock t-shirts, at Gov’t Mule’s performance at Central Park’s Summerstage this week. Gov’t Mule, led by jamband guitar hero Warren Haynes, filled the air with Southern-flavored rock, weaving between original songs, classic rock covers and plenty of fancy solos. Warren Haynes carries a lot of weight in this band, being the sole vocalist and lead guitar player. Given his consistent roles in the Allman Brothers Band and various touring groups made up of former Grateful Dead members, Gov’t Mule is where Warren can really do his own thing. Heading up the Mule, he’s not overshadowed by a the presence of a classic rock legend or two, such as a Gregg Allman, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, etc., who happen to be sharing the same stage as him. In other words, when Warren is not being a surrogate (but willing) Duane Allman or Jerry Garcia, he can really flex his musical muscles. And he’s got plenty of fans who want to go along for the ride.

That’s not to say he can do it all by his lonesome. Joining him is drummer Matt Abts, bassist Jorgen Carlsson, and keyboardist/rhythm guitar/trumpet player Danny Louis. And together, they ripped through a tight set, mainly supporting Haynes’ Allman-flavored guitar work. Most of the set had a heavy vibe. There really was nothing light or ultra-fancy. It was down-to-business rock and roll with very little stops. It’s as if you hitchhiked a ride on an 18-wheeler, and the grizzled trucker looked you right and the eye and said he’s not stopping for nothing till he gets to Miami. So strap in and get comfortable.

Still, the Mule’s strengths were in its covers. And Warren’s soulful, bluesy voice added a nice spark to a guitar-driven version of Elton John’s “Madman Across the Water.” Later, the band was joined by Jimmy Vivino of Conan O’Brien’s band for John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero”. But it wasn’t until the encores until the subdued crowd finally showed signs of life. Tearing through Bob Marley’s “Lively Up Yourself”, Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and Grateful Dead favorite “Morning Dew” got the people moving and grooving. Up to that point, the crowd was, I don’t know, just kind of nonplussed. Not loving it, not hating it, and not all that into it. The faithful few in faded tour shirts and/or tie-dye swayed along to Mule originals while the rest just stood around, as if waiting for something glorious to happen. And even though “Patchwork Quilt” and “The Shape I’m In” were performed flawlessly, they didn’t light up the night like the opening notes from a decades-old Zeppelin tune. Even Matt Abts’s lengthy drum solo felt a bit expected and worn.

But maybe a bit worn is how Gov’t Mule likes it. You may have put on that t-shirt more times than you can count. But dammit, if it ain’t still comfortable.

More pictures of Gov’t Mule at Central Park SummerStage after the jump.

Gov’t Mule at Summerstage by Jon Klemm
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