Drive-By Truckers Get Rowdy, Tackle New Songs In Portland (SHOW REVIEW)

Patterson Hood looked like David Lee Roth at a beauty pagent as he greeted the crowd at the Wonder Ballroom for the second of two Portland shows on Saturday. He had good reason to be happy, as this was the release weekend of American Band, the Drive-By Truckers’ controversial new album and easily one of their finest efforts to date. This was also his “hometown show” in his recently adopted home base of Portland. Even a small melee early on in the night couldn’t dampen his spirits, as yelled to the offenders, “don’t try and fuck with my hometown show”! What would unfold over the course of the night would be a two hour-plus performance from a band who, after twenty years together, still enjoys making music and playing it live more than anything else in the world.

The Drive-By Truckers are known for mixing up their setlists each night, so one never knows what to expect. But given that it was release weekend for their new album, it seemed like they would open with the new tunes. The solemn “Guns of Umpqua” – a song about the recent mass shooting in Oregon – kicked things off. Though songs like “Darkened Flags”, “Ramon Casiano”, and “Ever South” have stirred up controversy online over their focus on racism, gun violence, immigration and other major issues, there seemed to be little objection to the songs in the live setting, at least in the liberal haven of Portland. Maybe that’s because the new songs sounded so damn good live that even the biggest right-wing assholes were able to check their ignorance at the door for the night. By the time Mike Cooley ripped through the album’s catchy flagship song “Surrender Under Protest”, there was zero doubt that these new tunes fit right in with the Truckers canon.

Of course, it wouldn’t have been a proper Truckers show without a dive into their monumental catalogue. “Goode’s Field Road” carried a funky keyboard groove courtesy of Mr. Jay Gonzalez, who would also unleash heavy-duty guitar solos throughout the night, including on old favorites like “Gravity’s Gone”. By the time the band finished a rowdy “Women Without Whiskey” they were clearly fired up as they passed a big bottle of brown liquid that would make many more appearances before the night’s end. Other new songs like “What It Means” –acoustically picked by Patterson Hood – and the rollicking boogie of Cooley’s “Filthy and Fried” would be brought into the fold, and the somber nature of those songs hit hard in the best kind of way. This is, after all, a thinking man’s band.

As the band passed the two-hour mark the booze flowed and so did the rock and roll. One of the biggest moments came with the blowout rock anthem “Hell No, I Ain’t Happy” that squeezed in a cover of Prince’s “Sign O’ the Times” in the middle before longtime Truckers producer David Barbe popped onstage to take over guitar duties for Patterson Hood. With the “Hell No” jam going full force, complete with dueling guitar solos, Hood looked happier than anyone to be playing his new hometown. While closing with the drunken rendition of Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died”, Hood climbed speakers and swung the mike above his head, smiling like a crazed man and staying right on message with the political tone of American Band. In the end one thing was clear: the Drive-By Truckers are as creatively and musically in tune as they’ve ever been.

Setlist: 

The Guns of Umpqua
One of These Days
Darkened Flags
Ramon Casiano
Ever South
Made Up English Oceans
The Righteous Path
Surrender Under Protest
Puttin’ People on the Moon
Where the Devil Don’t Stay
Goode’s Field Road
Women Without Whiskey
The Living Bubba
First Air of Autumn
What It Means
Shit Shots Count
Tales Facing Up
Filthy and Fried
Baggage
Gravity’s Gone
Hell No, I Ain’t Happy–>
Sign O’ the Times–>
Hell No, I Ain’t Happy *
People Who Died *

*with David Barbe

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2 Responses

  1. Saw the Saturday show at Wonder Ballroom. Love the band, but the sound on the vocals was so muddy you couldn’t understand anything they were saying. Had 5 other people at the show tell me the same thing.

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