Gov’t Mule – Mark C. Smith Concert Hall at Von Braun Center–Huntsville, AL– 2/11/2014
Written by: Adam Gilliam
Edited by: Rosemary A.W. Roberts
With the second phase of Winter Storm Pax quickly approaching the southern town of Huntsville, AL the certainty of Gov’t Mule’s concert at the Mark C. Smith Concert Hall of the Von Braun Center was up in the air. The storm had already dumped snow on a typically snow free city the previous night; yet the weather would not win out. The band, known for its relentless fervor for touring, did not cancel the show and provided a great night of southern jam rock for the fans.
Starting as a side project of Allman Bros. band members, guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody in 1994, Gov’t Mule has become a staple on the festival and concert circuit for two decades. Even after Woody’s untimely passing in 2000 the band has remained a constant in the jam rock scene. This could be attributed to Warren Haynes’s amazing work on the guitar and unmatched vocal ability. These were instantly on display when the band opened with “Slackjaw Jezebel” off their 2004 album Deja Voodoo. The upbeat tune got the crowd ready for an excellent night ahead. Shortly after the band slowed things a bit and let Warren, as fans like to say, show off just how sultry his voice and guitar can be in “Worried Down With the Blues”. The sometimes less than energetic crowd finally all came to their feet when keyboardist Danny Louis began to rock out to the song made famous by Rufus & Chaka Khan, “Tell Me Something Good”. The clav intro to that song is impossible to hear without having a smile on my face. Hayne’s incredible songwriting was displayed next when the band tore into “Soulshine” which is probably his most famous original and one of my personal favorites as well. The set ended with nicely with two more originals “Banks of the Deep End” & “Thorazine Shuffle”.
With the threat of snow still looming Warren let the crowd know the setbreak would be brief in hopes the roads would be passable afterwards. The deep, driving guitar riff of “Streamline Woman” cut through the air to kick off set number two. Another song written by Stevie Wonder was briefly touched on when “Higher Ground” came in for a little over a minute segued with Howling Wolf’s “How Many More Years”. Gov’t Mule is excellent at paying homage to the greats of music history. The show slowed down again nicely when “Far Away” allowed Warren to shine some more. The next portion of the show was a highlight of the night. Steppenwolf’s “Don’t Step on the Grass Sam” was unveiled with giant flash cards for the audience to help sing along with the band and I could not help but ponder the name Gov’t Mule while chanting about Uncle Sam. The band managed to squeeze in a shortened version of the Mountain classic “Mississippi Queen” before finishing up “Don’t Step on the Grass Sam”. Matt Abts took the show over next and displayed incredible talent with a six minute “drums” . The set ended with an amped up “Whole Lotta Love” sandwiched inside the original “Mule”. This Led Zeppelin theme would continue as “Since I’ve Been Loving You” was the only encore of the night. Warren’s beautiful guitarmanship was left engraved on the audience with this cover. I for one am glad the snow and ice held off just long enough to allow North Alabama to enjoy a much needed escape into rock ‘n roll with Gov’t Mule.