A light fog encircled the stage like an aqueous shell in the Water Street Music Hall on Monday as hundreds of plastered patrons crammed into the Rochester venue to witness acute talent Derek Trucks turn his Gibson SG guitar into a child's plaything. Rounded out by singer Mike Mattison, whose voice resembles a raspier John Mayer, bassist Todd Smallie, drummer Yonrico Scott, percussionist Count M'Butu and the multi-talented Kofi Burbridge, the Derek Trucks Band played a seminal series of blues numbers and jam sequences over the course of a night of songs, smoke and spirits.
Built heavily around the band's most recent (and strongest) studio record to date, Songlines, the Derek Trucks Band rocked incessantly for two strong hours of blues featuring Eastern influences and slide guitar madness.
Unfortunately, the fortitude of Trucks' songs just doesn't hold up to the timelessness of those of his other band, the Allman Brothers. While Trucks pulled no punches, there just wasn't quite enough variety - particularly in the middle portion of the show - to match the passionate individual performances, and at times the set even threatened to stumble into the realm of muddled instrumental noodling.
This didn't stop the band from pulling off some showstoppers, such as the phenomenal rendition of blues legend Elmore James' "It Hurts Me Too" as well as Songlines standouts "Volunteered Slavery" and an extended version of "Mahjoun" that showed off Burbridge's exceptional flute skills.
Luckily, the band got a shot of youthful exuberance for the finale as opening act Ryan Shaw joined the stage to sing along with Trucks' wailing electric expressionism. Shaw's vocal talent simply has to be witnessed in person to be believed. Boasting a background in gospel, he matched Trucks' twisting guitar lines lick for lick, drawing even more energy from the crowd with his maddening howl and staggering vocal range. Members of Shaw's backing band, particularly his massive, lumbering bassist (aptly named "Tiny") also added some surprising highlights to the show.
There is no denying Trucks' talent, and as his career blossoms he proves again and again that he's much more than just a stand-in for long-gone legend Duane Allman. While the band's songs themselves may have been lacking in character on Monday, the lineup found a way to compensate with collective enthusiasm and unparalleled musical ability.