Gov’t Mule’s pointed concert memorialized with album

Michael Smyth /Tahoe Onstage
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule in 2019. Michael Smyth / Tahoe Onstage

Halfway into 2017, Gov’t Mule released “Revolution Come… Revolution Go,” its new studio album featuring several songs that express rage over the new man in charge.

Six months later at its annual New Year’s Eve Beacon Theatre bash in New York City, the Mule played this exciting concert, imaginatively focused on revolution and change, and released now as “Live at the Beacon Theatre, New York City, December 31st, 2017.”

The revolution did indeed come, but it certainly hasn’t gone.

An opening salvo of assorted Gov’t Mule songs sets the tone, tangentially and directly. Bassist Jorgen Carlsson gives liquid mercury a sound at the outset of “Lay Your Burden Down,” creating the mood for a modern-day blues of unique potency. That, and the other seven Mule songs presented, conspire to build a head of steam into the main event. For that, Jackie Greene took the stage with a horn section and the Better Half Singers (a trio of band members’ wives). Together, they proceeded to rock the house to its core on a set of covers suitable to the theme, and as if there were to be no tomorrow.

Guitarist/vocalist Warren Haynes stands alone in prolific songwriting, yet Gov’t Mule has an uncanny touch with just about any song by any artist they choose. Running the gamut from soul great Sam Cooke to British glam-rock originators T. Rex, the songs they played at this concert form one of their widest repertoires in style. Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” soothes and assures as it should, and T. Rex’s “Children of the Revolution” jars like a hit of acid. Nevertheless, both sound like Gov’t Mule, with Haynes affording them massive measures of heart and soul in voice.

The show kicks up on Steely Dan’s “Daddy Don’t Live in That New York City No More,” a song perfectly ironic in sentiment, and played just wonderfully, as if a soulful skip across 5th Avenue. Thunderclap Newman’s “Something in the Air,” “Dr. John’s “Revolution,” Bob Marley’s “Revolution,” and the Clash’s “Revolution Rock,” run from flowers-in-your-hair power to hard-as-nails R&B, and end with true reggae and punk-reggae, never missing a beat among the plethora of them along the way. In every song, draped in every design, Warren Haynes plays his guitar with the passion, facility and timbre that every guitarist aspires to.

The showstoppers arrive with Gov’t Mule renditions of The Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today)” and David Bowie’s “Changes.” The Temps tune offers the horns and the Better Half Singers their opportunity to shine in a soul music tour de force of molten objection. Greene sings “Changes,” and damn near channels Bowie as the band traces backwards in time as if time changed them.

Otherwise, throughout this four-hour extravaganza, Gov’t Mule kicks the tar out of songs by Blind Willie Johnson, James Brown, Gil Scott-Heron, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Allman Brothers and Jimi Hendrix.

Shows of this magnitude are currently Covid-forbidden, of course, so Gov’t Mule won’t be ringing in 2021 at the Beacon. Instead, this barnburner of a concert, the first in a planned series of special streaming-service-exclusive live albums, will have to suffice. The second installment, “Live at the Angel Orensanz Center, New York City, 12/28/2008, also is now available.   

-Tom Clarke

  • Gov’t Mule
  • ‘Live at the Beacon Theatre, New York City, December 31st, 2017’
  • Label: Mule.net

ABOUT Tom Clarke

Tom Clarke
From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 25 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, Los Lobos, and the Allman Brothers Band and its ever-growing family tree. Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Kudzoo, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage. Tom and his wife Karen have raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

LEAVE A REPLY

One Response

  1. Happy New Year, Tim. Great article by Mr. Clarke. Gov’t Mule might be the best live band out there today. I’m sure Live at the Beacon is great, but like a lot of bands, you just have to see them live to really appreciate how truly great they are. With any luck, perhaps they can go out again sometime in 2021. BTW: The photo by Michael Smyth was taken at an “off the charts” Plaza concert at the late, lamented Harrah’s Reno. Best regards. John…..

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