Warren Haynes Band: Beacon Theatre, New York, NY 5/12/11

Warren Haynes picked the friendliest confines he could think of to kick start his Man in Motion Tour, New York Cities Beacon Theater.  He may have played this venue more then any other artist over recent years and was clearly in a good mood as he showed off his new six piece band complete with xaxophone and backup singer. 

The WHB had no opener and kicked things off with a set showcasing the tracks from the new album.  The title track “Man In Motion” conveniently enough started things with some porno sounding chickie-wah-wah strums from Haynes along with a few short perfunctory jams.  In what would become a common theme for the night, Haynes strolled the stage showing off his axe skills, trying to goad his band into jamming with him; he wasn’t always successful.  “Rivers Gonna Rise” was the highlight of the new tunes presented with its passionate vocals and tight delivery.  A nice throw back for old school fans was “Fire In The Kitchen” off of Warren’s Tales of Ordinary Madness disk but what received the biggest reaction was the night’s first guest, William Bell.

Bell wrote the classic “Born Under A Bad Sign” and performed the tune with the energy of a man half his age, then dipped achingly into his signature tune “You Don’t Miss Your Water”.  Both tunes got the crowd going before the set break which found confused fans walking around in tye-dyes politely discussing the lack of Allman Brothers songs; glassy eyed and happy all the same.  

Haynes returned to play some solo acoustic originals (“The Real Thing” and “In My Life”) before inviting out his Gov’t Mule mate Danny Lewis to help on the stinging new “Save Me”.  A familiar “When Doves Cry>Beautifully Broken” segue was next before the southern rockiest song of the night “Power & The Glory”.  The set ended with funky keys that sashayed easily for “Sneaking Sally Through The Alley” before motoring straight into “Tear Me Down”.  Fans were up and dancing for both of those to close out the 2nd set, before the highlight of the evening, the 1st encore of “Soul Shine”.  The sax fills of Ron Holloway and most importantly the dueling vocals of Ruthie Foster added vitality to the number.  While it’s his most well known song (and sadly played out in some jamband circles) there was no denying it ascended to the greatest heights this night.  For it’s 2nd encore the band brought out a second guest (and broke its curfew) with Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford for a take on “Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home”

Haynes tried so hard to recreate his beloved early sixties soul.  Whether it was the lack of great songs or a gelling backing band, it never clicked perfectly.  Things were more reminiscent of Eric Clapton’s mid-80’s tours then a Soul Review with Haynes the superstar and the rest of the band playing songs that they seemed to learn in the last few months, not tracks they grew up loving.   Had Haynes performed all covers of Stax classics and put his undeniable twist on them this may have been a more layered and engaging show as was evident in Bell’s cameo.

As the tour progresses more guests and unique covers will emerge and the band will certainly gain confidence playing behind him, just don’t go in shouting “Blue Sky” like the guy behind us.            

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