The Drive By Truckers/Henry Clay People; September 28, 2010; Majestic Theater
The Drive By Truckers show in DeKalb a few months ago had been a good show with nothing to complain about, except I did. The set list had been good, but neglected to include any of my favorite songs, notably the two that top my list- Patterson Hood’s “Sinkhole,” a dark tale of one way to avoid farm foreclosure, and Mike Cooley’s “Shut Up and Get on the Plane,” the least reverent track from their Skynryd-centric magnum opus Southern Rock Opera. Tonight they played both of them in a set that dipped into SRO frequently, but included few other surprises. “Sinkhole” came mid-set, its distinctive opening chords announcing its arrival. It’s one song I always know before they start singing. “Shut Up” was part of a scorching encore that also included Cooley’s “Marry Me” and Patterson’s thunderous “Let There Be Rock.”
”Rock” is a perfect last track of the night, and often serves as their final word, but instead they brought back their special mystery guest for one more tune. The appearance of Kelly Hogan should have been the biggest surprise of the night, but I’d already heard that she had sang with Patterson that afternoon for a special free show at the Veteran’s Museum. "Angels & Fuselage,” another SRO track, was an excellent choice for Hogan and it made excellent use of her phenomenal, and in this case perfectly angelic, voice. Earlier she had joined the band for what she claimed was a request of Cooley’s, it’s hard to know if he had really asked for “Delta Dawn” but unexpected covers have come to be the norm from the Truckers. Patterson said they had wanted to play with Kelly every time they are in the Midwest but this was the first time it had worked out. If I remember correctly, the Chicago songstress moved there from Georgia which would explain the connection.
Much like the Hold Steady, I find myself farther and farther away from the Truckers with each show. As their popularity has grown so has their fan base, especially among what I call the frat boy set, the type who aren’t having fun unless they are pushing, shoving and running into each other. Which would be fine if they kept it to themselves, but that sort of behavior is never contained. The Majestic’s tiered floor makes it possible to separate yourself, but the further I get from the stage, the less connected to the show I feel. It looked like it was getting rough up front, but it was confirmed when bassist Shonna Tucker stepped to the mike, “it’s great that you guys are having a good time, but the people around you look pretty miserable.” I miss the days when you could stand up front at a Truckers show. Sure someone still might dump a drink on you or step on your foot, but back then there was a good chance you knew them.
The Truckers are still one of the best live bands on the planet, and I’ll still see them every time they come to town or within nearby driving distance, but I honestly don’t enjoy it as much as I used to.
Henry Clay People
Drive By Truckers