Gov’t Mule in Denver September 12-13, 2012

Gov’t. Mule
Gothic Theater/Fillmore, Denver
September 12, 13, 2012
By Geoff Anderson

The Mule is back. After a dalliance of about a year and a half with the Warren Haynes Band, Warren Haynes is back with his old comrades, Gov’t. Mule. (Can you have a dalliance with yourself?) Haynes formed Gov’t. Mule in the mid ‘90s to create the kind of heavy rock that he thought was lacking from the music scene at that time. His obvious role models were bands like Led Zeppelin, the Stones, and the Who. The Warren Haynes Band, on the other hand, has a more soulful sound, the pinnacle being the entire set of James Brown on Halloween, 2011 at the Ogden Theater. See a review of that show here:

As they did in February 2010, the Mule played two shows in Denver last month, the first at the relatively intimate Gothic Theater and the second at the much larger Fillmore. As usual, the band played two 2 ½ plus hour sets without repeating any songs. As usual, they mixed their originals with classic rock covers. As usual, it was great stuff.

The Mule doesn’t limit itself to simply banging out loud heavy metal. Certainly, the blues forms the basis for most of their material, but they dabble in jazz and even country, exemplified by the extended quote of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” in the second night’s second set. That set, in particular, roamed around several musical blocks. The band’s original “Effigy” formed the launching pad for an excursion that included not only the Johnny Cash tune, but also Hendrix’s bluesy “Hey Joe.” A jam on a Grateful Dead staple “The Other One” shortly followed and that one included snippets of the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” and “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, but turned into a jazz standard by, among others, John Coltrane. And speaking of Coltrane, another tune associated with him, “Afro Blue” showed up moments later. Right around the same time we heard a quote from “The Ballad of Chet Kincaid,” a tune written by Quincy Jones and Bill Cosby, which Cosby used as a theme song for one of his TV shows. Also in the jazz vein was “Kind of Bird,” a song Haynes co-wrote with Dickie Betts when they were both in the Allman Brothers Band in the early 90s. The song has a serious Allman Brothers vibe, but the walking bass line puts one foot squarely in jazz-land.

Of course, a Mule show rolls out plenty of heaviness. The beginning of the second night dropped one piece of heavy metal from the sky after another. “Bad Little Doggie,” “Lola Leave Your Light On,” “Lay Your Burden Down,” and “Brand New Angel” were a statement that the Mule rocks, and don’t forget it. But even within the rock idiom the Mule offers considerably more than a single speed (or emotion). Broken hearted love songs are a specialty. No, not just broken hearted, more like smashed, stomped and shredded heart love songs. We’re not talking about a lost love, too bad, so sad, boo-hoo. No, these are tragically failed romances; the kind that leave you twisting in agony on the floor, nearly turning inside out, incapacitated for months, years. A couple good examples of those are “Slackjaw Jezebel” and “Steppin’ Lightly.” (“Never saw the warning signs/ Only a fool could be so blind/ Who knew she could be so cold/ Cut me deep into my soul/ I’m hanging on by a thread/ How could I be so mislead?/ Woman drive me outta my head.”)

Identifying the cover tunes, especially when the band only plays an instrumental quote, is always good fun. Unusual twists, like the song “About to Rage” being in 7/4 time, also keep things interesting. Although much of the band’s music is blues based, the Mule doesn’t often play straight up blues. However, the first night, Haynes strapped on a hollow body electric guitar and delivered an authentic blues tune in “I Need Your Love So Bad.”

Danny Louis continues to take a bigger role in the band. The Mule originally started as a power trio with Haynes on guitar and vocals, Matt Abts on drums and Allen Woody on bass. After the untimely and mysterious death of Woody in 2000, the band has gone through several bass players. For a few years after Woody’s death, the band recorded albums with many different bass players, eventually settling on Andy Hess. He left several years ago and the bass position is currently held down by Jorgen Carlsson. Over the years, the band dabbled with a keyboard player on occasional studio tracks, usually just to add some Hammond B-3 growls for an authentic classic rock sound. After numerous guest appearances, Louis eventually joined the band as a full time fourth member on keyboards. Still, he rarely soloed and generally just provided moods and textures in the background. Gradually, Haynes has been giving him more room to solo, not only on the B-3, but on piano and synthesizers too. Then, after 2009’s album, By a Thread, Louis started to come out from behind the keyboard cockpit and strap on a guitar to play some rhythm behind Haynes’ solos. This time around, Louis played more guitar and even a few sections that could be considered solos. Having had about a year and a half vacation, he’s apparently has some time to practice.

Although a little bit of the Mule leaked into the Warren Haynes Band with Mule songs like “Frozen Fear,” “Tear Me Down,” “I’ll Be the One” and “Soulshine,” there was neither sight nor sound of the Warren Haynes Band in the two Denver shows. The title of the only Warren Haynes Band studio album (so far) is Man in Motion which aptly describes the leader of both these bands. Haynes’ career seems to be a lot like a Mule concert: you can never really be sure exactly what you’re going to get, but you can expect another shot of a soul-fixing elixir.


9/12/12 Set List

First Set

No Reward
Kings Highway
Major Jamming including Thelonius Beck
Banks of the Deep End
Time to Confess
Which Way Do We Run
Slackjaw Jezebel
Radar Love
Slackjaw Jezebel
I Think You Know What A Mean
When the Levee Breaks
I Think You Know What I Mean

Second Set

Steppin Lightly
Any Open Window
About to Rage
Broke Down on the Brazos
I Need Your Love So Bad
Larger Than Life
Brighter Days
Like Flies
Going Out West

Set List 9/13/12

First Set

Bad Little Doggie
Lola Leave Your Light On
Lay Your Burden Down
Brand New Angel
Unring the Bell
Shape I’m In
Kind of Bird

Second Set

So Weak So Strong
Rocking Horse
Temporary Saint
Thorazine Shuffle
Hey Joe
Folsom Prison Blues
Fallen Down
The Other One
Gimme Shelter tease
So Into You
Blind Man in the Dark
To Love Somebody


1 Comment

Filed under Reviews

One response to “Gov’t Mule in Denver September 12-13, 2012

  1. Fantastic review! Both of those nights were extremely rockin. Some of the best music I have experienced in my life. But I do have to say I had a terrible time at the Gothic. It was waay overcrowded and I couldn’t dance hardly yet alone see the band. I probably glimpsed at Matt once. But they played Banks of the Deep End and Time to Confess so that made up for it entirely. 🙂

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