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Sunday, 30 March 2014 17:00

Concert review: Drive-By Truckers (with Blitzen Trapper) chart 'English Oceans' at the Pageant, Saturday, March 29

Concert review: Drive-By Truckers (with Blitzen Trapper) chart 'English Oceans' at the Pageant, Saturday, March 29
Written by Will Kyle

"You should have seen that girl go shaky at the knees," sang Blitzen Trapper's Eric Earley halfway through the Portland, Ore. band's set. His words proved applicable to more than doting young girls; they illuminated the reactions of every Blitzen Trapper and Drive-By Truckers fan at the Pageant on Saturday night.

There were the weed-smelling, long-haired ex-hippies and hipsters of all sorts. Chewbacca with his grizzled beard and pig-tailed locks of braided hair, the geriatric man who leaned-hard on the Pageant's blue rails as he shook and gyrated his not-too-old-to-get-down frame, the busty older-woman, who sat bored with her date, winding her hair through her fingers, tapping a beer glass with a painted fingernail and gazing at young men striding toward the pit with puffed chests.

Earley and the rest of Blitzen Trapper conjured a set that tempered the band's tendency to overindulgence in jamming in order to fit into the more-discrete opening slot. The concision and efficiency served the band well as they served-up a tight set that included "Fletcher," "Feel the Chill," an extended and jammed-out (just enough) "Thristy Man," old favorites "Wild Mountain Nation" and "Love the Way You Walk Away," which suffered as some maniac loudly jabbered at some fool on the other end of his cell phone. I gave him a disgruntled "What the fuck?" stare over my shoulder more than once, yet he never stopped treading on the beauty of the song. Pits at concerts need many things; cellphone jammers are not among them.

"Furr," despite suffering from an awkward tempo, shined, as it always does; everyone sang along as Earley played acoustic supported by drummer Brian Adrian Koch's rhythm and backing vocals. A cover of Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way," "Shine On" and "Big Black Bird" closed out Blitzen Trapper's condensed set.

The five-piece Drive-By Truckers from Athens, Ga. appeared on stage before a giant banner that featured the cover art of their most recent effort, 2014's "English Oceans." Michael Cooley's vocals on "Primer Coat" described memories of drinking, cars and women known and unknown. "After the Scene Dies," from 2010's "The Big To-Do," featured Patterson Hood's sinewy vocals, and the Truckers' effect of conditioned alienation coupled with nostalgia, depicting a musical and cultural scene constantly evaporating before the persona's eyes.

Fan-favorite, "Where the Devil Don't Stay" thumped and burned with the darkness of the South. The band jangled, rocked and blasted forth, offering distorted tableaus of lost souls, drinkers, fighters, deadbeats and drifters, crackling white-hot from the driving intensity of the sonic beds over which they strode.

During "Dead, Drunk and Naked," I realized I probably would support the South's second rise, but only if Drive-By Truckers were to provide the soundtrack. As a thoroughly blue state-supporting motherfucker (but hater of partisanship), I took this as testament to the Truckers' inherent talent, ability and power, and perhaps proof that I ought never think (nor write) about politics.

DBTs continued with "Shit Shots Count," "Made Up English Oceans," "Hearing Jimmy Loud," "Pauline Hawkins," "Space City" and "Hell No, I Ain't Happy." The crowd's intensity never wavered; they stuck with the Truckers 'til the end.

As I walked from the venue, Hood's line "Hell no, I ain't happy" swam inside my skull, pulling my lips into a smile. I reveled at how the power ballad -- while proffering frustration and sadness -- could instill such happiness by way of insouciance.

Perhaps when all is lost and fucked-up beyond recognition is when one can really enjoy the world with the windows down and the tunes up, because there is nothing to lose. There is a sense of invincibility here, which is at the heart of the genius of Drive-By Truckers, for they give our sadness a soundtrack, coloring it all a rapturous, Southern-rock hue.

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