Concert review: With wild hair, Gov’t Mule blows Reno away

Tahoe Onstage

Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule is happy to please Reno on Saturday, Aug. 24.
Michael Smyth / Tahoe Onstage photos

Harrah’s Reno brought in powerhouse rockers Gov’t Mule for the final paid show of the 2019 Outdoor Plaza Series on Saturday, and the band that’s been burning up stages across the country for 24 years delivered.

For hardcore Mule fans, it was a very rare treat to see the one-man guitar army, Warren Haynes and band, up close in a small and uncrowded setting on a beautiful and breezy summer evening.

Since its self-titled debut album in 1995, Gov’t Mule has established itself as a no-nonsense rock band fronted by one of the premier blues-rock guitarists on the planet. Warren Haynes has been a fixture guest and artist at large with major acts and at festivals for a couple of decades. Fronting his own four-piece band, he’s the man in charge strumming edgy chords and growling the lyrics of his working man, heartland roots tunes.

Instrumentally, Haynes was in control of every note. Breaking out the first extended solo of the show on “Broke Down On The Brazos,” he commanded his Les Paul to whine and scream while Jorgen Carlsson laid down a steady, thumping bass line for Haynes to climb over and under. It was a theme that would be oft repeated.

If there was one thing Haynes was not in control of, it was his hair. From the get-go a steady wind pummeled downtown Reno, entering the plaza directly from the West, hit the hotel and swirled right back out to the Northwest.

He tried angling his body a little, then just pulling the hair out of his eyes on the rare occasion he had a free hand. That was fruitless. Finally a crew member got him a rubber band, and Haynes secured a pony tail. That idea lasted less than one song. The Reno winds had won, but the pro with the guitar over his shoulder just decided that being able to see was overrated, digging in even deeper to his performance.

Tahoe Onstage

Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule rocks Reno on a windy summer night.

By the time the opening set concluded with the R&B and reggae rooted “Time To Confess,” Haynes had already delivered the guitar riff goods to the appreciative crowd that had come to see their Mule.

Drummer Matt Abts has been driving the band behind Warren Haynes since the beginning. Visually, he’s always reminded me of the characters seen in the launch sequence of the popular video game Rock Band. Skinny, tattooed, long hair secured by a bandana, but don’t be fooled. He’s in charge from the kit for a reason, and in the second set his drum parts picked up, sharing dominant spaces with Haynes’ guitar.

As night fell, Gov’t Mule’s second set featured a little more variety, both musically and lyrically. Fans were treated to some old school tunes as well as from the current catalog. In both sets, the band sprinkled in tributes to some of their favorites, including Stevie Ray Vaughan and Deep Purple.

The 20-song set left everyone in a great mood and headed inside to the casino or their favorite watering hole since it was only 10 p.m. Haynes, who almost certainly was not only pleased with a great show, but only needed about 40 steps to be on his tour bus, out of the wind, and on his way to Los Angeles.

— Michael Smyth

Tahoe Onstage

  • Set 1
    Bad Little Doggie
    Mr. High & Mighty
    Broke Down On The Brazos> Tributary Jam
    Whisper in your soul
    Little Toy Brain
    Pressure Under Fire
    Sco-Mule
    Don’t Step On The Grass Sam
    Time To Confess
  • Set 2
    Feel Like Bush
    Million Miles From Yesterday
    Revolution Come, Revolution Go
    Come And Go Blues
    Funny Little Tragedy
    Trane
    I’m A Ram>Reblow Your Horn>I’m A Ram
  • Encore
    Dreams & Songs

— Michael Smyth

Tahoe Onstage

Tahoe Onstage

Drummer Matt Abts of Govt Mule

Tahoe Onstage

Bassist Jorgen Carlsson, of Govt Mule

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Warren haynes and Matt Abts of Govt Mule

Tahoe Onstage

Tahoe Onstage

Warren Haynes

Tahoe Onstage

Tahoe Onstage

Tahoe Onstage

Govt Mule rocked Harrahs Reno to close the 2019 Outdoor Plaza Series on August 24, 2019 Michael Smyth/Tahoe Onstage

About Michael Smyth

Michael Smyth moved to Reno in 2007 after living more than 40 years in the Bay Area. In addition to going to live shows, he enjoys golf, skiing and fly-fishing. Check out his website https://michaelsmythmedia.com/

One comment

  1. Fantastic recap! Great photos! Mule sure played one heck of a set that night, and it sure looks like a great place to have taken it all in! Thanks.

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