Tedeschi Trucks Band inventive, powerful in Hill Auditorium show
Utilizing everything from a horn section to backup singers to a rock-steady, two-drummer rhythm section, the husband-and-wife team of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi surveyed the breadth of American music, infusing their blues template with dashes of gospel, soul, funk, jazz and good, old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.
The show was long on music, particularly extended, muscular jams, and short on stage banter and showmanship. Which was just fine, considering Trucks is one of the best guitarists alive and Tedeschi is possessed of a rich, bluesy voice that falls somewhere between Janis Joplin’s and Bonnie Raitt’s.
Friday’s strongest element was the band’s balance. With so many people on stage, it could be easy for the show to devolve into a collection of pointless solos and overlong jams. For the most part, the band avoided this trap thanks to solid ensemble playing that emphasized collective improvisation over individual brilliance.
Horn charts were punchy, featuring complex harmony passages, while organist Kofi Burbridge, his brother, bassist Oteil Burbridge, and dual drummers, JJ Johnson and Tyler Greenwell, provided a solid, unflashy foundation.
Not surprising, then, that some solo excursions fell flat. Kofi’s Burbridge’s light-jazz flute solo didn’t take long to wear out its welcome, while his brother’s bass solo, complete with unison vocalizing, was without point or purpose.
Trucks, meanwhile, for all his technical ability, was understated throughout the show. Not that his brilliance didn’t shine through frequently, as it did on a couple of mostly solo pieces he performed with stripped-down versions of the band. Alternating between bottleneck slide and anything-but-standard fingerpicking, he performed solely on a red Gibson SG, alternatingly making it sing and scream.
Truck’s willingness to share the spotlight with Tedeschi and the rest of the band was admirable. If anything, however, Friday’s show would have benefitted from Trucks asserting himself a little more strongly into the music.
Not to be outdone, Tedeschi is also a fine guitarist, and some of Friday’s best moments came when she was picking out jittery, staccato leads, while Trucks vamped inventively behind her. The combination was as powerful as anything else during Friday’s show, even if the pair demonstrated it less frequently than they could have.
The real highlight, though, came during a jazz-fusion workout on Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight,” which the band combined to transform into a “Bitches Brew”-era throwdown in which even the band seemed transported by the sheer weight of the music they were creating.