Derek Trucks has a reputation as the reluctant guitar hero. He certainly didn’t seem reluctant Friday night at the State Theatre in Minneapolis.
Known for his concise solos, he seized the moment during several songs, taking extended guitar excursions and showcasing more guitar heroics than he usually does with the Tedeschi Trucks Band.
The Wheels of Soul Tour, also featuring Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and Rich Robinson, was originally scheduled for the Somerset Amphitheater in Somerset, Wis., but slow ticket sales – how many baby boomers want to drive an hour to stand in a field with a bunch of mosquitos? – necessitated moving to a smaller, in-town venue.
The State Theatre was packed, and the Tedeschi Trucks Band delivered. Susan Tedeschi was in good voice and good spirits (she thanked the fans for not going to the Twins game) and she even took a guitar solo on “I Pity the Fool,” with her rawer style fitting the mood of the bluesy stomp and providing a stark contrast to Trucks’ more fluid and elegant style.
The husband-wife duo and their expansive band came out smokin’ on “Made Up Mind,” and it was clear by the second number, “Do I Look Worried,” that Trucks was going to tear it up on Friday.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band has always come across as part jam band and part soul/R&B band. The band seemed to stretch out more on Friday than in past Twin Cities performances but it was always with a purpose, not just aimless jamming. The leaders gave plenty of opportunities for the other musicians to shine, including Minneapolis-bred singer Mike Matteson, keyboardist/flutist Kofi Burbridge and saxophonist Kebbi Williams.
Highlights included the gorgeous “Midnight in Harlem,” the Bonnie Raitt-like “Bound for Glory,” the Joe Cocker-ish “More and More” and “I Pity the Fool,” when Tedeschi got whipped into a vocal frenzy after her guitar solo.
But nothing was more exciting than when Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings joined the Tedeschi Trucks Band for the end-of-the-night encore. Their treatment of Etta James’ “Tell Mama” was soul-sational, with a terrific vocal exchange between Jones and Tedeschi.
Then the merged groups did a 10-minute medley of Sly Stone’s “Sing a Simple Song” and “I Want To Take You Higher,” filled with all kinds of improvised solos,exchanges between the horn players from the two groups and some tasty Southern blues-soul guitar from Trucks.
That may have been the most exciting encore I’ve witnessed this year.
Jones’ 70-minute performance was reminiscent of her State Theatre headline gig from last year, though not quite as emotionally charged. Back then, she had recently returned to the road after being treated for pancreatic cancer. The 59-year-old soul singer was spirited Friday, shaking her fringed dress like a dancing fool and belting her R&B like she meant every word of it. The set included covers of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and the early Gladys Knight hit, “Every Beat of My Heart.”
The highlight was Jones’ finale, “100 Days 100 Nights,” which she pointed out can be heard in a current commercial for Fitbit, but she managed to transform it from its slinky R&B groove to a spiritual.
Opening the evening was Rich Robinson, best known as the guitarist of the now-defunct Black Crowes. In his half-hour set Friday, his guitar playing was more noteworthy than his singing.