March 15, 2005
REVIEW BY MARTY GARNER
The Drive-By Truckers were the thinking drinking man's band, so it made sense they played a private party sponsored by Jack Daniel's. Hell, it probably saved the band money; they go through two or three fifths of the stuff on stage every night.
Tipitina's hosted the Truckers on Tuesday night to a packed crowd. The Truckers are known for hell-raisin' three hour shows. During Mardi Gras 2004, they played until four in the morning. Their Fest show this year starts at 2 a.m., which means that they should play until sunrise, if the JD doesn’t do them in first.
This was the problem with the Drive-By Truckers playing dates sponsored by their favorite adult beverage. Stroker Ace guitarist Mike Cooley looked like an honest-to-God dead man as the band stumbled on stage. His eyes were puffed out like a pair of freshly baked crepes. He drawled(and this man is the walking definition of the word "drawl") to the crowd about loving New Orleans and Tipitina's. Or something. It was hard to understand. I thought he wouldn't make it to the end of the set. As soon as leader/vocalist/guitarist Patterson Hood started the first song, though, Cooley straightened up and looked (relatively) normal for the entire set.
The Truckers played great Southern rock, but they were more The Band than Skynrd. The lyrics of Hood, Cooley, and particularly Jason Isbell were steeped in Southern Gothic storytelling, Alabama pride, lovin' yer mom, regret, heartbreak, and loyalty to family. It's what would have happened if William Faulkner had played an electric guitar.
But live, none of this mattered. What mattered was the rock. To be blunt, DBT rocked harder than any other band on Earth. Songs like "Lookout Mountain" and "Where The Devil Don’t Stay," both off of last year's "The Dirty South," held dark, backwoods riffs. While acoustic guitars were commonplace on the Truckers' albums, they had no place on the stage. Live subtlety wasn't their forte.
Isbell, Cooley, and Hood provided a tri-pronged guitar attack that sounded like a punk rock Lynyrd Skynyrd. Cooley, in particular, sent his
screaming leads straight into the listener's face and deep into the head. The viciously loud amps blurred the line between country and punk.
But something was a bit off about the Truckers. They were almost too drunk. More than once, Cooley played the wrong progression or continued soloing after the songs ended. Hood played this off well. He started the next song so Cooley’s mistakes appeared to be segues. Hood himself forgot the lyrics to "Dead, Drunk, and Naked." So yeah, they rocked hard and were a very good show, but the Drive-By Truckers were supposed to be a great show.
If I had never seen the group before, they would have blown my brain out of my head and against the back wall of Tip's. But since I'm used to A+ work and got A-, it was disappointing. Still, go see them in April. When they're sober enough to stand, the Drive-By Truckers are one of the greatest live rock acts on the road.