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Concert Reviews:
Tedeschi Trucks Band continues Wheels of Soul winning streak at Meadow Brook

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2019

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ROCHESTER HILLS -- Since emerging nearly a decade ago, the Tedeschi Trucks Band has staked a claim as one of the best live bands on the road right now -- versatile, inventive, improvisatory and fearless.

And with its current Wheels of Soul summer tour, including its stop Tuesday night, July 23, at the Meadow Brook Amphitheatre, you can add resilient to that list.

During the interim since last year's Wheels of Soul stop (at the Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre at Freedom Hill) the TTB lost two key members -- including keyboardist Kofi Burbridge, who passed away on Feb. 15, the day the TTB's new "Signs" album was released. But neither death nor departure prevented the 13-piece group from soldiering on in style, and on Tuesday the TTB was as exciting and virtuosic as ever, delivering a charged hour-and-40-minute show -- following warmly received sets by Blackberry Smoke and Shovels & Rope -- that gave "Signs" its due (five of the nights 14 songs) and mined the group's roots for some exceptional covers.

New keyboardist Gabe Dixon established himself early as a fit addition to the corps (as did bassist Brandon Boone), introducing "Still Your Mind" on piano, soloing on organ during a lusty rendition of Allen Toussaint's "Get Out of My Life, Woman" and taking a lead vocal on the Allman Brothers Band's "Don't Keep Me Wondering." But the star of the night, as always was Derek Trucks, from his subtle guitar accents during the opening "I'm Gonna Be There" on through...well, just about every one of the songs, whether playing slide or straight and never swapping out his red Gibson SG. Trucks played without drama or histrionics, almost offhandedly tossing out jaw-dropping solos and conducting his bandmates through theirs with an intuitive manner that made even the most improvised passages sound like they'd been rehearsed for weeks.

Trucks' wife Susan Tedeschi, meanwhile, was as always a force of nature in front, both vocally and on guitar, where she went toe to toe with Trucks on "I Want More." The TTB also segued the new "Don't Know What It Means" into the Joe Cocker arrangement of the Box Tops hit "The Letter," while Tedeschi and the group's three background vocalists lit up a gang-sung treatment of Billy Taylor's "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" (which was made famous by Nina Simone).

Wheels of Soul's best moments, of course are its collaborations, and while this year's edition did not feature as much cross-pollination as previous years the TTB and Blackberry Smoke did combine for some gems during the headline set. The latter's frontman Charlie Starr joined TTB for Elmore James' "The Sky is Crying," sharing guitar solos with Trucks and Tedeschi. And Starr came back, with three of his bandmates in tow, for the show-closing pairing of Sly & the Family Stone's "Sing a Simple Song" and "I Want to Take You Higher," a joyful communal romp that seemingly nobody on stage, or in the crowd, wanted to end.

The silver lining, of course, is it's only 12 months or so 'til next year's Wheels of Soul tour and the anticipation for what the TTB might have in store then.

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