Legendary southern rock jam band Gov’t Mule brought their Revolution Come, Revolution Go tour back to the city that birthed a majority of this 10th studio album with its Arlyn Studios production sessions. Their three hour jam session set boasted a handful of local and regional guest musicians as well as a set list that heavily promoted the new album, mirroring it’s reflection of the times. It served as an extension of lyrical commentary for current dialog facing our society, transmitting it across with a heavy reggae overtone throughout the set.
The allure of seeing Mule live is that no show is ever duplicated – the musical catalog & level of talent with this band cannot be fully showcased in one set, even if extended. Their creative energy flows out in an effortless power gracing the crowd with southern rock, blues, funk and soul in whichever way possesses them to turn in out. The physical following they have gained come to experience the tour’s different vibes and set lists which often feature covers and guest musicians who grace the stage along with these well-venerated musicians.
This show at ACL Live was divided up into two sets split by a brief intermission. The set opened with a recording of radio scans featuring excerpts of popular hits about revolution, beginning the underlying commentary of the show and album as they broke into an absolutely amazing jam session. Traditionally playing as a festival act, Gov’t Mule maintained the transmission of that energy into the smaller, indoor venue of ACL Live, playing to that atmosphere and ambiance of a collective social experience. The crowd was in a constant buzz just as if at a festival and absorbed the power and energy from onstage. The solid flow from one song to the next maintained this vibe and gave the illusion and feel of one continuous marathon jam session. Warren Haynes’ signature sound and power never wavered, only accentuating each tune’s emotion from the somber “Time to Confess” to the more anthemic ones like the album’s title track. The guest musicians flowed in and out of the set accentuating this power in a beautiful synergy of artistry. Revolution Come, Revolution Go’s intense single “Stone Cold Rage” brought onstage Austin Latin music scene’s Rey Arteaga – a percussionist who also played on the studio album. His smooth ability on the congas fed off of the bass in an extraordinary collaboration of sound. Ike Stubblefield brought his anthology of style and musical experience into the lineup on the organ towards the end of each respective set. Another Austinite who also played on the studio recording of this album as well as lent his talents in the production process – Gordie Johnson – joined Mule and company switching between the slide and electric guitar lending his eclectic portfolio of reggae and southern rock to the set as well. Collectively, they covered an amazing rendition of Steve Miller’s “The Joker” with a reggae flair that played off the visual psychedelia of the stage setup.
The band took a brief intermission from the delivery of constant power and deep rooted soul, picking back up with Jorgen Carlsson’s thick bass line overlaid with guitar and vocals in “Broke Down the Brazos,” spotlighting Danny Louis on the keys as Haynes switched guitars into “Tributary Jam.”
The strength and endurance of this lineup was phenomenal. The guest artists ignited the stage with their own flair playing to the level of versatility of talent and musicianship that has built such a solid following of Gov’t Mule. Some may argue that this level of artistic spontaneity has been lost or diluted in popular mainstream music, however these legends keep it alive and maintain a following of this ideal across the musical board, bringing together seasoned musicians from a variety of genres to come together and conjure and cultivate music out of a completely organic creative process.
Their album’s title track and tour namesake, “Revolution Come, Revolution Go” highlighted the vibe of the night with its anthemic sound before hypnotizing and lulling the buzz of the crowd with “No Need to Suffer.” Rey Arteaga joined the band back onstage for the Allman Brother’s “Kind of Bird” spotlighting in a conga solo bringing out the jazzy feel and lending a perfect soundtrack to the rainy Texas evening. Haynes’ powerful and soulful chords in “Burning Point” reverberated into the crowd accompanying Johnson’s electric guitar rhythms. The song and sound choices of the night joined in a beautifully crafted context with a seemingly underlying conversation in the set. The political commentary and social criticism brought to light in traditional reggae music and the choice of this sound for the songs accentuated the message of the repetition of revolution. Ending the set with a cover of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” presented a wise view of history repeating itself, further opening up a dialog about the current contexts of our society. The power in the chant-like repetitive guitar rhythms mixed with Haynes vocally harmonizing with his guitar rose up and pulled the crowd back into the end with soft and powerful soul, throwing up a peace sign and leaving the stage as the last note reverberated through the venue.
During the encore, Texas blues guitarist and final guest musician, Lance Lopez, gifted his local sound to the stage during the encore with covers of Ann Peebles’ “I Feel Like Breaking Up Someone’s Home” and Roy Hawkins’ blues standard “The Thrill is Gone,” reprising into the latter to end out the epic jam session of a set.
The power of music and musicianship undoubtedly feeds into the air creating a collective energy between artist and audience. This shared experience promotes creative unity and understanding through it, serving as a vehicle for commentary emancipating feeling, thought and voice across the board. The evolution of art and the movements it creates in response of times of upheaval makes its own revolution. It reminds us to listen and to come together bringing art to life and resonating that change in the world.
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