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.
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
- 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
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
I’m A Ram>Reblow Your Horn>I’m A Ram
Dreams & Songs
— Michael Smyth