• 149 WESTCHESTER AVENUE, PORT CHESTER, NY 10573-4549 · (914) 937-4126

  • April 29th, 2018

    reCAP: Gov’t Mule 2018.04.27 – 2018.04.28

    Words by Chad Berndtson
    Photos by Scott Harris and Geoff Tischman

    Gov’t Mule shows are a kaleidoscope: four masterful musicians traversing the boundaries of blues, rock, soul, R&B, jazz fusion, psychedelic folk and other flavors, often within just a few songs. And what Warren Haynes & Co. seemed to figure out a long time ago — and that would be nearly a quarter century now, friends, since the original Mule trio played its first shows — is that what they do wouldn’t work so well if all it did were pinball from style to style, unconnected except for name and personnel.

    No, Gov’t Mule sounds like Gov’t Mule whether Haynes, Matt Abts, Jorgen Carlsson and Danny Louis are blasting out the barroom rock ’n’ roll, or are plunging deep into psychedelic murk, or chewing ferociously through ancient-sounding blues tunes amped up for the immediacy of today. For another band, songs that can sound like Pink Floyd, or Traffic, or Blind Willie Johnson, or the Mahavishnu Orchestra, or Free, or the Allman Brothers Band, might sound like too much stitching coming one after another. But here, it’s the Mule doing its mighty thing — you know right where you are.

    The band took over the Cap this past weekend for two shows that, especially when taken together, were a prime showcase of all the Mule is and sounds like in 2018. Part of the Mule experience often involves expertly chosen covers and the involvement of exciting guest musicians to further spice the stew, but these shows took a different tack, focusing heavily on Mule originals — a pair of setlists that the Gov’t Mule connoisseur might appreciate above all, without skimping on the staples that the less-initiated would grab on to first.

    With a film crew set up to record what presumably will be a future video release, the Mule went wide and deep on both nights, favoring the gnarly, viciously musical jams that are their specialty — “Rocking Horse,” “Thorazine Shuffle,” “Revolution Come Revolution Go,” “Time to Confess,” “Broke Down On the Brazos,” “Mule,” “Blind Man in the Dark,” “Inside Outside Woman Blues,” all taken deep — and surrounding them with chestnuts (“Hammer and Nails,” “Fool’s Moon”) and newer songs that ably connote the classic Mule sound without rehashing territory they’ve covered before (“Thorns of Life”).

    There were relative rarities (“Little Toy Brain,” “Life Before Insanity”), and one or two text-your-fellow-Muleheads-right-away bust outs, including the first version of Grand Funk Railroad’s “Sin’s A Good Man’s Brother” — a staple of the original Gov’t Mule lineup — for the first time in nearly 16 years. And tucked right into the middle of a massive, two-hour-long second set on Saturday was a debut cover — the Pearl Jam tune “Come Back” — that the band played like it had always been part of the repertoire: “Shit yeah, let’s play an obscure Pearl Jam song!”

    Gov’t Mule’s been using the more recent song “Traveling Tune” as a book end during many of its live sets, and during the two nights, it was touched no fewer than three times, opening the second set on the first night, the first set on the second night, and turning up once more coming out of a staggering “Bring On the Music” at the second night’s second frame. It’s one song that pointedly captures Gov’t Mule 24-plus years as a working band, with pensive lyrics about reconciling with time’s merciless march onward.

    That’s this band, and in a big way, what these shows felt like: time marches on, the seasons change, the world is what it is, some people make it, some people do not…and the Mule still kicks.

    April 27

    1: Hammer and Nails, Rocking Horse, Thorazine Shuffle, Painted Silver Light, Larger Than Life, The Man I Want to Be, Fool’s Moon, Far Away, Sin’s A Good Man’s Brother+, Mr. Man
    2: Traveling Tune > Revolution Come Revolution Go, No Need to Suffer, Effigy, Dreams & Songs, Time to Confess, Broke Down on the Brazos > Tributary Jam, Lola Leave Your Light On, Blind Man in the Dark

    E: Raven Black Night > Dark Was the Night Cold Was the Ground

    + LTP Oct 2002

    April 28

    1: Traveling Tune > Railroad Boy, Mule, Beautifully Broken, Stone Cold Rage, Drawn That Way, Forsaken Savior, Whisper In Your Soul, Little Toy Brain, Funny Little Tragedy

    2: Life Before Insanity, Thorns of Life, Trane > Eternity’s Breath > St. Stephen Jam, Pressure Under Fire, Revolution Come Revolution Go, Unring the Bell, Endless Parade, Mr. High & Mighty, Come Back++, Inside Outside Woman Blues #3, World Boss, Bring On the Music > Traveling Tune

    E: I’ll Be the One > Blue Sky Jam > I’ll Be the One

    + FTP, Pearl Jam