On July 20th, the Wheels of Soul Tour featuring Tedeschi Trucks Band, Los Lobos and the North Mississippi All-Stars wowed the crowd at Bethel Woods, the site of the original Woodstock Music and Arts festival. Like previous dates of this summer trek, those who came out for the show got to hear and see collaboration-heavy sets of original material and exceptional covers that celebrated the blues, jazz, soul, rock, folk traditions. However, what made this particular evening unique when compared to other tour stops was the Woodstock twist to Tedeschi Trucks Band’s headlining set. In honor of the location and its history, the band included a debut cover of Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice” and an encore that featured a moving Joe Cocker-flavored rendition of the Beatles classic “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
Under the late afternoon sun of a warm Catskill summer day, the three-piece North Mississippi All-Stars brought their country blues sound to what both hippies and rock and roll faithful come to know as the Garden. There were both funky foot stompers and Deep South spirituals. Homage was paid to the great bluesmen of yesterday, with covers by Charlie Patton, Mississippi Fred McDowell and Son House. The first collaboration of the night would occur during their set, when the Tedeschi Trucks Band background vocalists joined the band to add gospel harmonies on two songs rich in railroad imagery “Move Along Train” and “Back Back Train.”
Even in the absence of singer and guitarist Cesar Rosas, Los Lobos delivered a strong career-spanning set that showcased their eclectic Latin-tinged sound. The band from East LA would voyage into rockabilly territory with “Evangeline” and the Deadheads in attendance were excited by a spirited take of “Bertha.” The haunting creep of “Kiko and the Lavendar Moon” provided a perfect soundtrack to the setting sun.
The on-stage collaborations really ramped up with Los Lobos’ set. Luther Dickinson of the North Missisippi All-Stars sat in on Little Walter’s “Lose My Mind” and the Los Lobos original “Gates of Gold,” while Susan Tedeschi and the TTB background singers joined the group to contribute stirring vocals to a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” The TTB horn section added a grand wall of sound while Derek Trucks fire tossed solos with David Hidalgo on the blazing “Mas y Mas” set closer.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band opened their set with a question, getting things off to a start with Sly & The Family Stone’s “Are You Ready?” One could only imagine if attendees were ready for this special set that was just getting underway.
Like the previous two sets, stellar musicianship would take center stage. Susan Tedeschi’s incredibly emotive voice (bearing striking resemblance to Bonnie Raitt’s) was enough of a reason to name this traveling event the Wheels of Soul tour. Derek Trucks could blow minds with that would make his heroes Duane Allman and Eric Clapton proud. But while the band may be named after its husband-and-wife leadership, it’s still a band, and a mighty fine one at that.
This was a group that had a historical understanding of the music they play, self-evident in their tasteful covers that they played but also in original material like “Made Up Mind,” “Don’t Know What It Means” and “The Storm.” Drawing from influences ranging from John Coltrane to Stax recordings to Led Zeppelin, the band somehow found a way to bring all of these diverse elements together and create a vibrant sound, rich in harmony and texture.
The collaborations that picked up during Los Lobos’ slot didn’t let up for the Tedeschi Trucks Band set. Los Lobos guitarist David Hidalgo returned the favor of supplying additional solo when he sat in on heady covers of Traffic’s “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring” and Elmore James’ “The Sky Is Crying.” A little bit later on in the set, Derek left the stage and Luther stepped in to contribute stunning guitar work to a version of “Angel From Montgomery” that segued into a snippet of the Grateful Dead’s “Sugaree” before returning to the John Prine classic.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band (along with Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi All-Stars on washboard) wrapped up their headlining set with a captivating cover of Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice,” paying homage to shred master Carlos Santana on his 69th birthday and at the same time, serving as a glorious tribute to one of the finest moments of the legendary 1969 festival that happened up the road.
With Luther in tow, the night’s entertainment came to a close with a two-song encore, pairing an interpretation of Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” with a take on the Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends.” The former cover may or may not have been a nod to the town of Woodstock, where Dylan recorded the song in the basement with the Band nearly half a century ago, and was also the town that inspired the massive Aquarian gathering. The latter cover almost certainly was a nod to the festival itself, as their take resembled the Joe Cocker version played at the three-day event, rather than the Beatles “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Band” album cut.