The band's process delivers more than an original performance; it tailors the set to the night and to the crowd by crafting the set list the day of the show and even waiting until the set breaks to make their selections for the later sets and encores. With such a routine, they continue to wow even the most dedicated fans show after show, commonly playing two shows in many of the cities they visit.
On Wednesday night, the Athens, Ga.-based crew continued its streak of inimitable concerts, performing the second of two nights of packed crowds at the Peabody Opera House. While two shows offer the chance for twice as many people to attend, the majority of the fans attended both nights, creating a monstrous, four-set event with a couple of encores each night for both local and devoted traveling supporters.
The stage was set with an impressive display lights, featuring a towering circular screen of LEDs that could produce a variety of background images and designs surrounded by two metallic frames of active lighting, including LED spokes connecting the two. They could have easily astonished the crowd with a barrage of intense visuals, but instead chose to let the music take the focus, often using a minimum of lights and even dark backgrounds with simple spot lights, but certainly not letting the remarkable display go to waste either. The six members of the band take a similar approach to their stage presence, fairly immobile but connected and committed to pumping out every song in ways they had never attempted before.
Throughout the night, it was often lead guitarist Jimmy Herring and keyboardist JoJo Hermann that took charge of the jam sessions, both displaying a variety of styles and skills. Herring, who's been with the band since 2006, very rarely used many effects as he played, often sticking to the melodic, clean guitar sound that drives many of the songs, but exhibiting fierce licks, ripe with shredding flurries of hammer-ons and technical skill throughout. He was also quite adept at harmonizing with the others' riffs during their solos. Hermann had further range to his sound, hopping between a selection of keyboards, organs and synthesizers, presenting a distinctive style with each that ranged from funk and jazz to saloon styled blues grooves. He also took the lead vocals on a small selection of songs.
The other members may have not taken as much of the focus, but always contributed. John Bell, who handled most of the vocals, highlighted much of the night with rhythm guitar parts and added a couple short slide-style solos as well. The backline has always impressed audiences, mixing Todd Nance's drums with Domingo S. Ortiz's percussion set up. Nance's set featured an array of four toms and seven cymbals, which he blended into the songs smoothly without stealing attention. Ortiz was afforded a couple of moments at the forefront, setting the tone with bongo and conga intros, but also mixed in other percussive elements throughout the show.
The final member, the very modest Dave Schools, regularly stood off to the side and out of the spotlight as he supplied a constant flow from his six string bass, but did whip out a couple solos and used some creative effects to stir up the tone a bit, including a moment when John Bell had to turn and laugh with a giant grin. The first set featured a variety of lively, rocking tunes and the energy erupted to start the second set, but over-all the show was a bit mellower than their typical line-up, particularly in the heart of the second set.
Regardless of the toned down mood, the seats were merely place-holders as everyone stood and danced throughout the entire show, and continued dancing in the aisles and in the streets as they exited.
Fixin' to Die
Tickle the Truth
Cotton Was King
B of D
Party at Your Mama's House
Ribs and Whiskey
Pickin' up the Pieces
Up All Night
Bust it Big
Ballad of John & Yoko
No Sugar Tonight
All photos by Wil Wander.