The Scene: When we walked up to The Ogden shortly before 8pm for the second night of the Warren Haynes Band two night stand at the venue, there was a decent crowd of aging hippies with long thinning hair standing outside dressed in everything from tie-dyes to biker vests. It was pretty much the crowd I expected to see come out to catch the hardest working guitarist in the music industry and his new soul band. As we made our way inside I was surprised to see how much room was available on the venue’s main level. After scanning the balcony unsuccessfully for a spot on the rail, we found some space down below and waited for the show to begin. As we waited, and the clock ticked past 8 . . . and then to 8:15, the room filled up quickly. While it wasn’t quite sold out, by the time the band took the stage at 8:25, it was getting pretty crowded.
Warren Haynes Band: After he was sure his guitar was accurately tuned, Haynes led the band into the lead and title track from his new solo CD, Man In Motion. An autobiographical tale, the song focuses on Haynes’ busy life on the touring circuit and his hunger for adventure. The song gave the band a chance to warm up a bit and find their groove and Haynes did take the first of many opportunities to stretch out into a long blues soaked guitar solo that only served whet the audiences appetite for more. From there, he kicked into the second track from Man In Motion, “River’s Gonna Rise,” and just when it seemed like he might make his way through the album in order, the band took a turn into “Invisible,” from his 1993 solo record Tales of Ordinary Madness. These first three songs gave the audience a chance to sink their teeth into the sound of Haynes’ new band. Less gritty than Gov’t Mule, The Warren Haynes band focuses on the Soul and R&B side of Haynes passion and throws some rich harmonies into the mix thanks to his choice of Nigel Hall on Keys and vocalist Alfreda Gerald, who did an incredible job filling in for the legendary Ruthie Foster.
Though the first set took a long time to build to it’s crescendo, the band showed their versatility as they moved from the slow burn of “Your Wildest Dreams,” to the upbeat blues stomp of “Power & The Glory.” Though Haynes guitar dominated the mix for much of the set, he took several opportunities to allow Ron Holloway to blow some mean solos and even got right in there with him to trade some licks and spar playfully with his Sax man. It was clear that the band was having fun up on stage and that it was only a matter of time until they really broke through.
That breakthrough finally came with a fairly obscure cover of Mother’s Finest’s “Baby Love” that really allowed Gerald to showcase her powerful voice and really got the crowd rockin’ for the first time in the evening. Just as most of us thought the first set should be about over, Nigel Hall began an organ intro and the first notes of Haynes signature tune, “Soulshine,” rang out. The crowd exploded and we settled in for what turned out to be 10 plus minute version of the song that featured Gerald taking the reigns on the second verse and a seamless segue into the Van Morrison classic “Tupelo Honey” before Haynes steered the band back into “Soulshine” to round out what turned out to be a solid first set.
After a 30 minute break, Haynes emerged on his own with an acoustic guitar slung around his neck for a brief, four song solo acoustic set that featured “Patchwork Quilt,” his touching tribute to the late Jerry Garcia, John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero,” and “Into The Mystic,” the second Van Morrison tune of the evening. Haynes then traded his acoustic in for an electric and was rejoined by the band for a stellar cover of Little Feat’s “Sailin’ Shoes,” that led into a very funky version of “Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley,” to continue the parade of covers. At this point in the evening, the band was on fire and the crowd was loving every minute of it, dancing, singing along, and soaking up the soulful vibes that were flowing freely from the stage.
The band rounded the set out with “Hattiesburg Hustle” from the new record, a very bluesy take on “Beautifully Broken,” and “32/20 Blues” which featured a stunning, blindfolded solo from drummer Terrence Higgins. It was a powerful way to end a scorching set of music and left everyone in the house hungry for more. Fortunately the band returned after a short break for a slow, poingant version of “Save Me,” the closing track from Man In Motion, and the second Little Feat song of the evening, “Spanish Moon.” The band nailed the Feat classic, stretching it out to close to 10 minutes of sultry groove and allowing Holloway to send us all into the night on one of the best Sax solos of the evening that continued even as he walked off into the wings of the stage.
Stage Presence: A
Set/Light Show: B+