The scene: If there is any venue that can evoke awareness of a higher power, Red Rocks is the place. Weather swirling around the naturally spectacular venue caused a slight delay to the start of the evening as thunder, rain and lightning threatened from the sky. People pulled out their rain gear, but seemed generally unaffected and jovial otherwise. Eventually the rain let up, the sun parted through the clouds, and JJ Grey & Mofro took the stage.
Opener: JJ Grey & Mofro. JJ Grey & company took the stage for just under an hour of soulful Southern Rock. The band opened with the new song “99 Shades of Crazy” moved into “Brighter Day”, a soulful ballad highlight, and then Grey picked up the guitar for “Your Lady, She’s Shady,” a hard driving Rock-n-Soul song featuring Grey’s killer vocal range. At one point in the set Kofi Burbridge, the flute player from the evening’s headliner, Tedeschi Trucks Band, emerged to play a spectacular solo. During the softer songs the sound was low, and sadly the crowd was almost loud enough to distract from the performance but generally there was abundant good energy that resonated with the crowd as Grey repeatedly pointed to the sky with reverence as the set ended.
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals took the audience on a visual and sonic journey through their catalog and a few choice covers. Evoking the feel of a rock goddess or priestess, Potter- resplendent in an angelic white glittery gown – displayed a high energy level over the hour-long set. Potter played her Gibson Flying V, Hammond organ, and tambourine as she literally kicked off her shoes and got down to the heart of the matter. The band’s diverse set included “Stop the Bus,” “Goodbye Kiss,” “Low Road,” “Never Go Back,” “Big White Gate” and covers “Devil’s Train” (Hank Williams) and “Friend of the Devil” (The Grateful Dead) with Potter on acoustic guitar. The latter portion of the set included “Medicine, Paris (Ooh La La),” “The Divide,” and “Nothing But The Water I & II.” The band ended on a high rocking note with a cover of “War Pigs” and “The Lion, The Beast, The Beat.”
Potter and her band showcased their talents and diversity by playing both acoustic and electric, and at one point they even broke into a group percussion solo. Overall the set was loud from the first downbeat. Potter danced and laughed her way through the songs, clearly enjoying the evening. At one point she went into the crowd and bantered about Vermont and Colorado as being very similar states. There were clear themes of higher powers and low places as Potter caught us all up in her spell.
Tedeschi Trucks Band: Without a doubt Tedeschi Trucks Band was the highlight of the evening. One of the most musically talented bands playing today, this impressive group of artists did not disappoint. The multi-talented horn section also added a healthy dose of vocals and entertained the crowd with some funky dance moves. Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi alone and together are jaw-droppingly impressive. Trucks’ slide guitar playing has a tonal quality and distinctive sound that is simply unrivaled while Tedeschi’s unbelievable voice and guitar playing made for an evening of soul soothing rocking. Much like a good marriage, it’s clear that this band is enhancing the growth of each individual.
It’s a treat to experience the live performance of a band that is so tight, yet seemingly effortless. Guest bass player Eric Krasno (Soulive, Lettuce) has been featured on the low end on this tour since the departure of Oteil Burbridge earlier this year. His brother Kofi Burbridge absolutely killed the Hammond and the flute while Mike Mattison provided powerful vocals that lent a Motown Funk to the group’s soul stirring sound.
Some of the highlights of the set included a powerful “Don’t Let Me Slide” that showcased Tedeschi’s vocals alongside Truck’s seemingly intuitive guitar playing. The crowd was treated to a funky version of “Bound For Glory” as well as the soulful “Midnight in Harlem.” In a nod to those who paved the way for them, the multi-talented band tore though an amazing version of Elmore James’ “The Sky Is Crying” – apropos for the weather delay evening – before ending the set and returning with a crowd pleasing run from “Angel from Montgomery” into “Sugaree” and back into “Angel from Montgomery” with Grace Potter sharing the mic with Tedeschi. The band ended the evening with a few tracks off their forthcoming August release Made Up Mind.
Stage Presence: A-