Lot of big shows, reunions, festivals, and the like coming up in 2012, but the one to beat was actually in progress as 2001 faded into 2012. Gov't Mule were on stage at the Beacon Theatre for the second night of their tenth annual New York New Year's Eve gig and they delivered big time.
The first set featured Mule material with Warren Haynes playing like it was an encore at Bonaroo rather than the first few tunes of the evening. They started with Railroad Boy" and ran through a magnificent set that included "Mule; a stretched out "Thorazine Shuffle;" about a half dozen other tunes, and closed with a lively "St. Stephen > Eternity's Breath > Trane with a tasty Beatles "Norwegian Wood" as a tease.
After a break they returned for the second set where they covered Joe Cocker's classic "Mad Dogs & Englishmen" live album. Mule was accompanied by the Chronic Horns; Jenny Hill on saxophone, Pam Fleming on trumpet, and Buford O'Sullivan on trombone and vocalists Alicia Shakur (from Warren's band), Machan Taylor and Mint Carlsson. Together they recreated the sound of a band that was only together for one historic tour. With the exception of "Delta Lady,' and "Superstar,' both penned by Leon Russell and Bonnie Bramlett, the tunes Mad Dogs covered were written by Lennon & McCartney, Dave Mason, Jagger & Richards, Leonard Cohen, Ashford & Simpson, Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding and Jerry Butler, Bob Dylan and more. So Mule were doing covers of covers and it was brilliant.
They were into Cohen's "Bird on a Wire" as the clock approached midnight. Then keyboardist Danny Louis led them into "Auld Lang Syne," as red, white and blue balloons dropped from the Beacon's rafters. Instantly Mule kicked into "Feelin' Alright" and the entire audience was feeling just that as the new year began.
The entire second set consisted of: Intro, "Honky Tonk Women," "Sticks & Stones," "Cry Me a River," "Bird on a Wire," "Feelin' Alright," "Superstar;" then two tunes that spotlighted what a great soul singer Warren Haynes is; his version of Ray Charles classic "Let's Go Get Stoned," and then Sam & Dave, and Otis Redding got respect they deserved when he sang in the Blues Medley: "I'll Drown in My Own Tears/When Something Is Wrong with My Baby/I've Been Loving You Too Long." The soul portion of the show was outstanding.
It was followed by a Keith Richards moment as drummer Mat Abts came out from behind his kit and sang a duet with Warren on Dylan's, "Girl From The North Country."
The full band, chorus, and horns were back to wind things up with "Give Peace a Chance," "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window," "Space Captain," "The Letter," and "Delta Lady."
Covering this one of a kind album was a brilliant idea and well executed. The keyboard work by Danny Louis was nothing short of magnificent. Keyboards were played by two guys in the original Mad Dogs, Leon Russell and Chris Stainton, but Louis hit it out of the park.
There no doubt will be live CD's of the evening available through the Mule organization, but nothing will capture the excitement of having been there. They probably won't do it again, but you never know. The point is anytime you go to see Gov't Mule you are in for a treat and surprises so don't miss their next one.
This was also a reminder that the original "Mad Dogs & Englishmen "CD is available. There's also a DVD documentary of the entire tour which shares the same name. Most of the album was recorded at New York's Fillmore East in the spring of 1970. Joe Cocker is the front man and the bandleader is Leon Russell. The band consists of 21 singers and players who would go on to become Derek & the Dominoes' rhythm-section and the Rolling Stones' horn section. Other members included, Jim Gordon, Rita Coolidge, Bobby Keyes, Jim Keltner, and Claudia Lennear. And there are tunes that Mule didn't include in their set on the CD such as "Darling Be Home Soon," "Further on up the Road," "Something," and more.
Meanwhile back at the Beacon, Mule returned for a short third set featuring "Sco-Mule," a gospel take on "Soulshine," and closed out the entire extravaganza with Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released."
So the last night of the old year ended and the very first few hours of the New Year began with a concert that enters my top ten of all time. The show, Warren Haynes, and Gov't Mule were that good. They are that good&&see them live any time you can.