It’s hard to believe that on Wednesday night on May 17th, Gov’t Mule marked show number 2000.. Warren Haynes celebrated the milestone the only way he knows how; he invited a bunch of guests to jam with him. The Chris Robinson Brotherhood opened the show, with its front-man fresh off his Tuesday interview on the Howard Stern Show. After his comments, it should have been no surprise that his band didn’t do the lone Dead cover they occasionally include in their set. For once, Robinson was largely quiet and seemed committed to letting his band’s music do the talking. One should also not have been surprised that even “I Ain’t Hiding,” one of the few Black Crowes songs the band does, was absent.
Guitarist Neal Casal really stood out, although the band’s songs don’t really let him stretch out. With so little movement, it’s hard to believe the tone he produces. He will join Phil Lesh later this month for the second of his Memorial Day Weekend shows in Port Chester. The set-closing “Shore Power” finished things strongly.
This was also the first show in Central Park’s Summerstage concert series. The Mule took the stage under a lighting arrangement that has always reminded me of the ship from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. After kicking things off with “World Boss,” the Mule tore up the park. “Rocking Horse” was great as always and brought the show back to the band’s early days. The instrumental “Birth Of The Mule” off Dose seamlessly flowed from “Rocking Horse” and was another nice nod to the past.
With a new album, Revolution Come…Revolution Go, coming out next month, the crowd was treated to a few live debuts. “Stone Cold Rage” sounded like classic Mule, which is a good thing for fans. “Sarah, Surrender” seems like more a song from Warren’s Man In Motion album and made use of the backup singers. The middle of the show returned to more old school stuff with a three pack of “Game Face,” “Banks Of The Deep End,” and “Time to Confess.”
Haynes brought out Neal Casal and Bruce Willis (yes, that Bruce Willis) for the blues staple “Key To The Highway.” Willis’ harmonica wasn’t completely audible over the dueling guitars, but that was ok since Haynes and Casal did some fine ax work together. “Revolution Come…Revolution Go” is a great song and worthy of being the title track from the forthcoming album. Jorgen Carlsson’s bass intro was mammoth and brought back echoes of the late Allen Woody. The middle section even has a little “Jesus Just Left Chicago” touch to it. The lyrics are the closest Haynes has ever gotten to being political. When he sang about “ringing them bells for a brand new day,” it was hard not to think about the state of our federal government right now.
The instrumental “Stratus” brought out saxophonist Steve Elson and the Billy Cobham tune went into some deep spaces. Elson stayed onstage for the set closing “Mule” and for the encore Haynes brought out Jasmine Muhammad and Lauren Dawson on backup vocals for the live debut of “Dreams and Songs.” It has a little “Soulshine” to it and it worked well as an encore. It will be interesting to hear this haunting song in different parts of the set in the future. Somehow the Mule once again got the job done before the Park’s 10:00 PM curfew to boot.