My musical taste may have started with the Replacements, the Ramones, and Husker Du, but my tastes have evolved to include other genres as well. One of my very favorite bands are the Drive-By Truckers. They are often classified as alternative country and site their varied influences as Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Replacements, the Rolling Stones, and REM, to name just a few. What they bring to music are incredible lyrics, amazing musicianship, and a true heart and soul for doing what they do. DBT is a band that has had up to 3 songwriters, very different in style and content, at any one time. While for most bands this could easily turn into a scattered, incoherent mess, with DBT it melds into something that seems effortlessly beautiful. A marriage of voices, styles, and souls that compares to no other band I know. With the departure of Jason Isbell in 2007 (and his subsequently very successful solo career—Isbell recently won two Grammy awards), the bands songwriting remains incredibly strong and relevant. And although Isbell was a critical part of DBT albums such as Decoration Day, The Dirty South, and A Blessing and a Curse, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley continue to prove that they are strong enough songwriters to preserve the DBT stories and sound without a third lyricist.
I’d seen DBT before, but only as an opening band for Alabama Shakes in September of 2015. While seeing them as an opening band was certainly better than nothing, my love of the entire Drive-By Truckers catalog made it a priority for me to see them as headliners. I waited patiently until I heard that they were coming to the NYC area on March 6, 2016. Overjoyed, I purchased tickets the second they went on sale.
DBT is a band that is also well-loved by some good friends of mine, so we met in a quirky (and very good) Thai restaurant called SEA a couple of blocks away from the venue. I highly recommend it as a pre-show stop for drinks or dinner.
As always, It was my intention to get there early so that we could stand right up front. I got my wish.
The setlist spanned the long and incredible career of DBT, beginning with the quieter and more reflective “Tornadoes” but segueing into the much louder “Where the Devil Don’t Stay” and then a rendition of “Sink Hole” that made you stomp your feet and cheer.
Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley alternated songs throughout the night, and what struck me is how rare it is to find a band where each of the singer-songwriters is so different in tone, style, and content, but each equally as strong. These guys really are some of the best songwriters out there, but they add to it with how well they play and how well they back each other up. There is no other team out there as cohesive as Hood and Cooley when they’re up on that stage together.
Hood is always a great story teller, and being the progressive woman that I am, I have to say that one of my favorite parts of the evening was when he stepped up to the microphone and said “Mama, I know you’re listening on the internet, and if you vote for Donald Trump, I’m putting you in the nursing home… .” I’d already been smiling from ear to ear because of the quality of the show, and that only added to it. Another favorite moment of mine was when Hood changed the lyrics of “Let There be Rock” to include the Replacements and REM, instead of Ozzy Osbourne and AC/DC. Hood has a very wide collection of musical influences, and this was really reflective of that.
The band had already been playing for almost 2 hours, but I never wanted it to end. They rocked the house down. I don’t think that a person in the audience was spared from having one of the best concert experiences of their lives.
When the band came out for their encore, I hoped for 2 or 3 more songs. I just didn’t want this show to end. And as if they read the mind of the overjoyed audience, the encore set consisted of 6 songs. Beginning with a rip-roaring version of “Birthday Boy” and ending with the subdued “Angels and Fuselage,” the show ended as it had begun. With a beautiful and reflective song, filled with a grand total of 21 high-energy, kick-ass songs in between. It’s not often that a show feels perfect from start to finish. This one really did.
Drive-By Truckers have been together for 20 years, but this band shows no signs of letting up or slowing down.They just keep getting better with age.