Tedeschi Trucks Band Live: Portland’s Keller Auditorium is still shaking with the blues.

Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do.”

He also once said, “It’s no secret that the husband-and-wife duo of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi and their eponymous band play a show worth seeing.”

Just kidding.

But Tedeschi Trucks Band’s repeatedly sold-out tours are proof enough of both statements. The one-two punch of Trucks’ bull-charge yet melodic riffwork and Tedeschi’s powerhouse pipes can do nothing but endear the heart.

However, even when their deal-sealing abilities come in for the closer, it’s often what the musicians around them do.

Santana would have fallen flat at the Fillmore in 1968 had Michael Carabello never placed his hands on a conga. Led Zeppelin would amount to nothing more than a blues cover band had John Paul Jones never laid a finger on the bass.

IMG_20171103_204425So too, is it true, would Tedeschi Trucks barely move the odometer if they never found the talented hands and the right wheels to budge the tour bus.

And talent there is in the 12-piece outfit. To a layman that might seem too much, overfilling the beat with too many steps, bombarding audiences with too many elements to ever build a flow. Not in this case.

While Susan Tedeschi’s voice is every bit southern as it is comfort, but also powering the pipes of the vocal organ is Alecia Chekour, whose modulating vibrato recalls a vocal elasticity becoming of Whitney Houston. She went zero-to-100-to-zero again with a drop of a mic stand on “I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free),” trading in staccato with the indentured moans of Mark Rivers.

While Derek Truck’s fingers may drive the heart to a fevered-beat over extended jams, it’s the percussion pair of J.J. Johnson and Tyler Greenwell who fill the space of an open night sky with the rumble of the drums, trembling the very ground under the Keller. Where a Dead and Company drum space barely shows life, the Tedeschi Trucks Band percussionists want to steal the thunder from the sky and place it in your chest.

While Kofi Burbridge may make your day with his accompaniments on piano, it’s his flute on “Idle Wind” that will make the night, willing a warm wind beneath Tedeschi’s soaring wings. Unfortunately, Burbridge’s flute, while artfully employed, stays criminally underused. To say the least, I want more.

And while this all sounds like somewhat standard blues-band-fare, it’s the horns section of Kebbi Williams (Saxophone), Maurice Brown (Trumpet) and Saunders Sermons (Trombone) that transforms blues into big band blues on nearly every effort.

Because when a band pulls so much of its rootsy style from blues, rhythm and soul, it’s downright delightful to hear them play the blues with big band pizzazz.

With so many aces, it’s a wonder how deep the sleeve goes. It’s impossible to know if they played through the deck or not. Alas, the era of four- and five-hour super shows has passed, however much I wish they didn’t.

Instead, Tedeschi Trucks delivers a tight package of fun, expanding upon their brotherly opening act, the Hard Working Americans (who are no slouches themselves—Duane Trucks’ drumming knows where and when to hit it while Neal Casal whips the licks out of his guitar with no mercy), to create a solid night of blues.

So, if you’ll forgive me repeating myself, this is a jam band doubleheader worth seeing, listening and enjoying even for the core of hard blues fans.

Setlist:

  1. Do I Look Worried
  2. Made Up Mind
  3. Right on Time
  4. Sailing On (Toots & The Maytals cover)
  5. Shame
  6. Idle Wind
  7. Color of the Blues (George Jones cover)
  8. Laugh About It
  9. Leaving Trunk (Sleepy John Estes cover)
  10. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free (Billy Taylor cover)
  11. How Blue Can You Get? (Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers cover)
  12. I Want More

Encore:

  1. A Song for You (Leon Russell cover)
  2. Will the Circle Be Unbroken? (traditional)
  3. Bound for Glory