Tedeschi Trucks Shine at Rainy Jazz Fest

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Tedeschi Trucks Band with Jimmie Vaughan and Billy Gibbons 4-28-16 Photo: Douglas Mason via Jazz Fest)

Tedeschi Trucks Band with Jimmie Vaughan and Billy Gibbons 4-28-16 (Photo: Douglas Mason via Jazz Fest)

The story line of Week Two at Jazz Fest was that Biblical rains came close to closing it down but ended up only stopping a couple of hours of Saturday’s show. Unfortunately one of the sets that didn’t happen was Fest headliner Stevie Wonder, a big favorite in and of New Orleans.Wonder was so hot to play the set that he got hold of a megaphone and sang Prince’s “Purple Rain” to the crowd a capella.

It was one of several Prince tributes during the Fest – both bounce Queen Big Freedia and indie rockers My Morning Jacket also played the song in honor of the Purple One.

Earlier on Saturday Dr. John was saved by the storm when he got the hook after only six tunes. The band was lackluster and Mac was missing vocal cues all over the place. Unfortunately Mac was playing Stevie Wonder’s $800,000 grand piano, which was ruined.

Neil Young and Promise of the Real 5-1-16 Photo via Jazz Fest

Neil Young and Promise of the Real 5-1-16 Photo via Jazz Fest

Fair Grounds looked like lakefront property at the end of Saturday’s show. When the rain resumed the next day and kept on all afternoon it seemed certain that another cancellation would take place. But the show went on and Festers slogged through the mire to hear Neil Young (one of many classic rock legends on hand) and his new band Promise of the Real play three lengthy songs from my favorite Crazy Horse album, 1990’s Ragged Glory. The band opened with the great “F*!#in’ Up” with its timeless lament: “Why do I keep fucking up?” They also played “Country Home” and “Love and Only Love” from that record. Young played “Rockin’ In The Free World,” which Pearl Jam covered on the same stage the week before, “Cortez the Killer,” “Powderfinger,” “Monsanto Years” and a lot of long, feedback drenched guitar solos. Real rainy day music.

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Paul Simon didn’t have to battle the rain Friday but he was overwhelmed instead by audience conversation. A guy with an acoustic guitar and a delicate, understated voice is no match for 30,000 festival fans. You actually couldn’t tell if Simon was playing or not until you got close to the stage. It’s too bad because what I’ve heard of the new stuff sounds interesting.

The big event that Friday when Simon played happened across the field on the Gentilly stage halfway through Raw Oyster Cult’s set. The Cult, comprised of three former members of New Orleans’ legendary rock band the Radiators (read our story: Top 10 New Orleans Rock Bands) were joined by keyboardist Ed Volker and bassist Reggie Scanlan, making it a full scale Radiators reunion. The quintet revisited past Jazz Fest glories beginning with “Long Hard Journey Home,” which is based on Volker’s Jazz Fest-inspired vision of Professor Longhair up in the clouds, continued with guitarist Dave Malone’s “Last Getaway” and climaxed with Volker’s tribute to the band’s audience, “Wild and Free.” The other two members of ROC then joined in for a jam session of “Papaya” before finishing off with “You Can’t Take It With You When You Go.”

Despite the mistakenly credited video, this is Raw Oyster Cult…

Thursday afternoon featured one of the best sets I’ve ever seen at Jazz Fest, delivered by the magnificent and ever-improving Tedeschi Trucks Band. It’s no secret that Derek Trucks is one of the finest guitarists out there, but Susan Tedeschi is an absolute revelation, fast becoming one of the greatest female blues rock singers. The confidence she gets from Trucks, and the airtight band that supports them, also gives her the room to play some excellent guitar parts in the band’s arrangements.

They opened with a smoking “Made Up Mind” and by the time they rolled into Derek & the Dominos’ “Keep On Growing” the crowd was on its feet and screaming encouragement. Trucks played Eric Clapton’s solo pretty straight, but when he picked up the slide for the Duane Allman part it was all gloriously his own. A couple of songs later it was Tedeschi’s turn to wow the audience with an astonishing take on “The Letter.” (She did it again later in the set when the band played Joe Cocker and the Grease Band’s version of “With a Little Help From My Friends.”)

The greatest part of the show, though, came in mid-set when they brought up a couple of special guests. First it was guitarist/vocalist Jimmie Vaughan, who got things rolling with lusty versions of “Let the Good Times Roll” and “I Like It Like That.”

All hell broke loose when Billy Gibbons came out for a four-guitar tribute to Freddie King on “Palace Of the King,” with Vaughan plying the riff and the others dropping solos. Then it was on to a B.B. King tribute, “How Blue Can You Get,” with every one of them taking a spectacular turn before a collective improvisation at the end. Z Z Top’s “Going Down to Mexico” ended this set-within-a-set.

John Swenson

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