Bands often seem bloated as they add more members to their groups and suffer a messy or chaotic sound as a result. But on Nov. 29 at Boston’s House of Blues, the 11?piece blues rock group Tedeschi Trucks Band proved to be an exception to that trend.
Fronted by husband and wife combo Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi – both impressive musicians in their own rights -Tedeschi Trucks Band was formed in 2010 and combined members of both Tedeschi and Trucks’ solo groups. Trucks is a virtuosic slide guitarist best known for being a member of the Allman Brothers Band and the Derek Trucks Band, while Tedeschi is an accomplished blues singer and guitarist. In addition to Tedeschi and Trucks, the band features bassist George Porter Jr., keyboardist Kofi Burbridge, two drummers, two backing vocalists and a three?piece horn section.
Despite this rather large number of members, the band was on point from the opening number of the night, a cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’.” Trucks’ slide guitar and Tedeschi’s soulful voice immediately became the two lead voices; they skillfully complemented and wove around one another. The band’s versatility also became quickly apparent as it shifted gears between blues, jazz, funk and soul music all in the span of a few songs. The night’s setlist was comprised of tracks from the band’s debut album “Revelator” (2011) and a mix of creative covers that showcased the band’s talents, such as Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight” and George Harrison’s “Wah Wah.”
One of the band’s primary strengths is Tedeschi’s powerful vocals, which are reminiscent of Janis Joplin. They add a layer of emotion to the band’s already stellar playing. Tedeschi’s vocals ranged from soulful on her touching rendition of “Angel from Montgomery” to howling and full of fury on the fiery cover of Bobby Bland’s “That Did It.” The latter song also showcased her skills as a guitar player when she took a solo that culminated in a fierce flurry of notes, proving she wasn’t going to quietly sit back and let Trucks provide all the band’s guitar firepower.
However, Tedeschi Trucks Band’s secret weapon is slide guitarist Derek Trucks, who remained humble on stage but wowed the near?capacity crowd with incendiary solos. Trucks’ guitar playing is a marvel to behold. He incorporates numerous styles into his own while contributing lyrical guitar lines that blend flawlessly with Tedeschi’s vocals. Trucks is by no means a showy player, and he remained part of the background for many songs while other members got their turn to be highlighted. But when his time came, the stoic guitarist would stand nearly still while he unleashed awe?inspiring solos that seemed to soar over the music, resulting in a huge ovation from the crowd after each one.
Trucks’ humility is an important reason as to why this band works so well, since his guitar is never the dominant aspect of the concert. During Thursday’s performance, the band came across as a cohesive unit, rather than a superstar duo (Tedeschi and Trucks) with backing musicians. Trucks’ leadership and willingness to give each member equal opportunities to solo almost gave the sense that he was directing a jazz ensemble. This variety paid off and gave the concert a dynamic feel, with the onstage configuration changing often between songs and various members getting the chance to front the band for a bit. One particular highlight was when bassist George Porter Jr. took a turn at lead vocals, ripping the band through a funk?filled cover of The Meters’ “Ain’t No Use” that led to one of the biggest crowd reactions of the night.
The interplay between members of the band was a joy to watch throughout the night as members traded riffs and passed around solos. After finishing with a joyful finale of “Sweet Inspiration,” the band left the crowd in high spirits and eagerly anticipating what the future will bring for the rising Tedeschi Trucks Band.