Like the rest of the world, Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule have been sidelined for a good portion of the last year aside from some select socially distanced solo performances. But it is fitting that this quartet was one of the first to commit to performing live again since so much of their history has been forged from the stage.
With a former New Haven tennis stadium turned jam scene concert venue, it’s suddenly making The Elm City appear like Red Rocks east. Gov’t Mule helped open the venue with three heroic shows that welcomed back some normality to live music fans. By all accounts Friday (4/30) was strong, but everyone needed a little time to shake the rust off, so this suggested the Saturday show on 5/1 would be pretty special. It’s also worth noting that Warren Haynes has swapped places with bassist Jorgen Carlsson and now occupies the center-stage spot.
The band hit the stage a little after seven with “Hammer and Nails,” whose loping tempo was the perfect springboard for the evening. “Larger Than Life” kept that groove and gave way to a scorching “Temporary Saint,” while “Dreams” contained two scorching Warren solos. “Mule” was great as always, even without the “Who Do You Love?” or “I’ve Been Workin’” segue in the middle while, “She Said, She Said” ended the set. For the “Tomorrow Never Knows” instrumental, Warren abandoned the liftoff jam of years past, and instead, he used his solo to drop a bunch of Beatles’ riffs from various songs like “Day Tripper.” Mule has been playing the song that way for a few years now, but this version really made me miss the jam they debuted on Dose.
The Mule opened the second set with a jam in the keys of “E-/F/F#-/G>.” It’s only thanks to the setlist they posted afterward, that what felt like at the time a big lead-up jam now has a name. The spacey spurts from Haynes’ guitar led to their first cover of Radiohead’s “Creep,” since 2017 and as the video proves, it was a compelling version. “Mr. High and Mighty” gave way to an appropriately mournful version of the late Bill Winters’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” which segued into a ripping “Blind Man In The Dark.”
The set ended with a blazing “Broke Down On The Brazos” For the encore, the Mule proved they had plenty in the tank by playing “Fallen Down” into a full “Other One Jam.” They’ve honored the Dead many times in similar fashion, just as the Allmans would sometimes do out of “Black Hearted Woman.” But this version was a real standout and was a great way to end the show. It was hard to believe that they gave us all that before 10:15 on a Saturday, but that’s the Mule for ya.