How to pay homage to Bobby “Blue” Bland who died the day before? In high heels, with an electrifying run through the blues legend’s “That Did It.” At least that’s the Susan Tedeschi way, as experienced by a swaying, hooting and howling audience at Red Butte on Monday night.
That’s not to suggest the lead vocalist of the Tedeschi Trucks Band was the only one primed to show the rich tradition personified by Bland has worthy successors.
From the soft, opening phrases of “Don’t Let Me Slide” — from the band’s much-acclaimed 2011 debut, “Revelator” — through the searing amalgam of sounds of “Misunderstood,” with which they bade farewell, all eleven members of the band gave ample evidence of their remarkable musicianship.
The flavors released during a typical TTB composition are so various — bringing together such diverse elements as old-time gospel and experimental jazz — and so expertly rendered, it is difficult to absorb them all in a single sitting.
Take “Midnight in Harlem,” for instance. Its lullaby-tinged guitar line, which gets things going, blended soothingly with Tedeschi’s resonant alto, which was then complemented perfectly by backup harmonies, and finally set soaring by the enchanting soloing of Derek Trucks.
Or take “I Know,” whose percussive opening accelerated via a jaunty salvo from the horn section — comprised of Kebbi Williams (on saxophone), Maurice Brown (on trumpet) and Saunders Sermons (on trombone) — then gave way to Mike Mattison’s commanding vocals, which led to Kofi Burbridge’s rambunctious keyboards, and then funneled toward a trumpet solo that sent out one clear message from the stage: This is the time for collective reverie.
Such was the feel of the energy throughout the 15-song set that rocked bluesily for nearly two hours under a foreboding firmament, which never mustered up more than a pleasant drizzle.
A great attribute of the venue is its ability to attract an eclectic crowd where age is no barrier. It is where one can spy a toddler with hipsterish, construction-site style earmuffs — among a gaggle of kids who are playing — just feet away from an elderly couple who are slow dancing the night away. And such, indeed, was the case during the plaintive new song, “It’s So Heavy.”
While the interplay of instruments made one marvel at the complexity of each song, the interplay between original tunes and classics showcased the increasing depth of the band’s repertoire.
Their driving version of Elmore James’ “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” which has become a staple, felt as fresh — and therefore as welcome — as ever.
Their gorgeous medley of John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” and the Grateful Dead’s “Sugaree,” spread like mist among the fans, some of whom evidently spent the night in pursuit of an illegal smile. It came as part of the encore, and it confirmed what has seemed clear ever since Bonnie Raitt made it her own: It was always meant to be sung by a woman.
Those looking for a bit of the avant-garde were likely entranced by the relay-fashioned soloing in “Nobody’s Free,” which reached a frenetic, jazzy crescendo courtesy of Williams’ tenor sax.
“Mahjoun,” which dates to Trucks’ pre-TTB album, “Songlines,” was the evening’s one vocals-free interlude. Kindled by Burbridge’s meandering flute, the instrumental composition culminated in an extended sequence where the band’s duo of time keepers showed just how entrancing two drums can be.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band embodies the spirit of live music. It shows up as mirth in its members’ faces, in the collaborative way they share the spotlight, in the inventive way they render their body of work onstage.
On Monday night, even the gods of old Olympus might’ve agreed that joy is instrumental. Because it was.
Review: Tedeschi Trucks Band
Bottom line • Blues rock band lit up the night with a sharp, multi-instrumental showcase of old and new songs.
With • Rayland Baxter
Where • Red Butte Garden Amphitheater, 300 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City
When • Monday