Live review: Drive-by Truckers @ the Ogden TheatreBy Jonathan Gang | March 22nd, 2011 | 1 Comment »
A great rock ‘n’ roll concert can be very, very close to a religious experience. Saturday night at the Ogden Theatre, Athens-by-way-of Alabama alt-southern rockers Drive-By Truckers did their best to set the stage for such an event, both with their set (a large cross and two faux-stained glass windows that made the stage look like some sort of psychedelic southern Baptist church), and the songs from their recent ninth studio album, “Go-Go Boots.” The record finds the Truckers blending gospel and southern soul influences into their already heady brew of Lynyrd-Skynyrd-worshipping southern rock with Townes-Van-Zandt-esque narrative country storytelling.
Live, the band delivers a tight, powerful blend of their signature triple-guitar, headbang-friendly riffage and affecting, character-driven songwriting. This is further highlighted by the dynamic between dual frontmen and songwriters Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood, who specialize in raspy, world-weary yet anthemic blues-rock epics and lean, mean, rockabilly-esque barn-burining shitkickers.
Highlights included several songs off their newest album, including the smooth yet dark sounds of the soulful murder ballad title track, the driving character sketch “Used to Be a Cop,” and the evening’s most soulful moment, a cover of “Everybody Needs Love.” The band also dipped into its extensive back catalog for much of the set, reaching as far back as 1998’s “Gangstabilly” for the fan-favorite “18 Wheels of Love,” a rollicking, funny rocker telling the tale of Hood’s mother’s love affair with a wayward trucker. The band also played several from their 2001 magnum opus, “Southern Rock Opera,” including the closing one-two punch of that album’s fist-pumping rocker “Dead, Drunk, and Naked” and the Skynyrd tribute “Ronnie and Neal.”
Of course, every preacher needs a good congregation, and the Truckers exchanged plenty of love with their adoring crowd at a packed Ogden Friday, the first of two nights at the venue. It’s always impressive when a band’s fans know even a few of their songs by heart, and the Trucker’s crowd made it difficult at times to hear the band’s singing over their own, especially impressive for a band whose wordy tunes often don’t even have traditional choruses. It was just like church, just with more devil horns in the air.
Jonathan S. Gang is a Denver-based writer, musician and general adventurer.