After reading my review of the Allman Brothers Band show we attended just a few weeks ago, my buddy DJ had just one complaint. "They’re not going to stretch things out like they do at the Beacon. You just can’t expect that." While the ABB may have showed such restraint in New Jersey last month, I am proud to report that Gov’t Mule did no such thing as they kicked off their "Mighty High" tour at the Central Park Summerstage on September 6.
Son House’s ‘John The Revelator" received the full treatment with a horn accompaniment, much like the version on their MuleOrleans JazzFest EP which was packaged with the pre-order for their last album. The tune had a nice greasy feel like a ragtime-themed wake in the Crescent City. The opening notes of "Slackjaw Jezebel" gave me an instant jolt as its intro always reminds me of "One More Saturday Night." Needless to say, Warren Haynes was wailing on his Les Paul. With the rare opportunity to stand fifteen feet or so away from him, I was constantly impressed with his absolute mastery of the instrument. "Banks Of The Deep End" was a nice surprise since it rarely seems to appear that early in the set. Then again, the band would be playing one big set so they needed to move quickly. Warren played and sang his heart out for the departed Allen Woody.
"Don’t Step On The Grass Sam" was a return to classic Mule. Warren’s gutiar tech, Brian Farmer, was once again on the stage with the cue cards for the chorus. This song is a perfect example of a cover song that the Warren has really made his own. While it is originally a Steppenwolf tune, the Mule has been playing the shit out of it since before mid 90s At this point, the show was about halfway through (the venue has a 10:00 curfew). This was also when the setlist shifted towards tunes of the High And Mighty album. With the exception of the "Bad Little Doggie" that emerged out of Matt Abts’ drum solo and the "Blind Man In The Dark" that closed the show, the remainder of the set came from the band’s most recent release. This doesn’t mean that the intensity of the playing tapered off at all. However, it meant that the show lacked those mind-blowing covers that mark the best of Mule shows.
During the stretch run, highlights included a powerful version of "Brand New Angel"and "Unring The Bell" featuring the return of the backup singers. The ladies seemed more unsure of how to work themselves into the tune and I cringed a bit when they sang over the closing "Shakedown Street" tease. But it found its nice reggae groove before the band brought the show to a close.
Jimmy Vivino, who normally plays with The Max Weinberg Seven on Late Night has always been a frequent on stage guest. His guitar provided a nice foil for Warren on "32/20 Blues" and "Come On Into My Kitchen." These two Robert Johnson tunes were given a complete makeover and the upbeat arrangements hardly resembled their original versions. Needless to say, they were much better selections for an encore than they might appear on paper. As the band segued into "Gonna Send You Back To Georgia," I began my walk across Central Park. With the band still blaring from hundred of yards away, I couldn’t help but smile after a night well spent. With tour dates announced for the remainder of 2007, including the New Year’s run at the Beacon, Gov’t Mule is happily showing no signs of slowing down.