Concert review: Drive-By Truckers and Those Darlins go deep at the Pageant, Friday, October 28
Imagine being in a traveling band and staring down the prospect of trying to play a rock show in a town on the night said burg’s baseball team is playing in Game 7 of the World’s Series, at home, no less.
Lesser bands would’ve gotten their manager to reschedule, or just resigned themselves to a shit show and gone through the paces so they could get back on the bus and put that town behind them but quick. But Drive By Truckers hunkered down, got a lay of the land, adjusted their sights a bit and then opened up with both barrels.
The band pushed back its set to 10:30 p.m., a likely time for Game 7 to end, giving a full hour after Those Darlins’ set for fans to watch the game on several TVs and a giant movie screen hanging over the stage before DBTs took the stage. Luckily for them, there wasn’t a repeat of Game 6 extra-innings shenanigans, the Cards won right on time and the rock commenced in a timely fashion.
The DBTs’ setlist was a bit of a puzzle. The band was a full seven songs in before they played a track from their latest record, “Go-Go Boots” — the desperate, atmospheric “Used To Be A Cop.” Earlier this week it was announced that singer/guitarist Patterson Hood’s great uncle, George A. Johnson, who figured prominently in several DBTs songs, like “Sands of Iwo Jima,” passed away, yet there was nary a mention of this from onstage, and none of those songs were played. (Though Patterson did perform “Sands,” live in the KDHX studios, earlier on Friday.)
But everyone grieves differently. Maybe it was too soon to play those tunes live again, and when you have a back catalog of work that rivals Ryan Adams for sheer heft, you have to make some cuts. And while I might question their song choices, I can’t fault the execution.
The band got progressively louder and looser as the night progressed, and they focused more on their heavier songs, stomping rockers like “Lookout Mountain,” “Where the Devil Don’t Stay,” “Uncle Frank” and “Sinkhole,” than on some of the rambling, Southern gothic story-songs they do oh so well. Hood’s partner in crime, singer/guitarist Mike Cooley, was on fire both vocally and instrumentally. His careening version of “Shut Up and Get on the Plane” from the “Southern Rock Opera” album during the encore was a real highlight.
Singer/bassist Shonna Tucker took the mic for just one song, “Dancin’ Ricky,” from the latest record. She has a classic country voice, equal parts sweetness and heartbreak, and I wish her considerable talents would have been showcased more.
DBTs brought the show to a close with a sweaty, shambling version of The Jim Carroll Band’s “People Who Died,” featuring Those Darlins’ Kelley Darlin on guitar. All in all, it was a world championship rock show.
Those Darlins opened up the night with a set drawn heavily from their latest release, “Screws Get Loose.” I saw the band open for Old 97s earlier this year at the Pageant, and I have to say, I didn’t get what all the fuss was about then. I had high hopes, since they’d been getting a ton of good press and were touring with one of my favorite bands, but those hopes were dashed, at least that night. Their sound was bad, there were two separate guitar-strap mishaps in the first five minutes of the set, and the band seemed to be thinking about the after-party instead of the rock ‘n’ roll. I left that show remembering their name for all the wrong reasons.
But hey, everyone can have a bad night, and I was more than happy when the band exceeded my expectations and put on a fine show last night. The sound was spot-on, and really highlighted their tight harmonies and singer/guitarist Jessi Darlin’s Brenda Lee/Wanda Jackson twangy growl. Their cover of the Who’s cover of “Shakin’ All Over” was incendiary. I will see them again. I will buy their record.