One of the best jam bands in the land made a stop in the Twin Cities Saturday night when Gov’t Mule rocked the rafters off the Palace Theatre.
Led by guitar god Warren Haynes, Gov’t Mule has been rocking hard since 1994. Haynes has played with just about everyone and has a Grammy under his belt to boot. With original drummer Matt Abts, bassist Jorgen Carlsson and multi instrumentalist Danny Louis, Mule are much greater than a sum of their parts, a hive mind that spontaneously combusts musically on the stage. They never play the same song the same way, constantly stretching the envelope, and the Palace buzzed with the anticipation of surprise.
The band came on right around 8:15 to a raucous welcome by the packed audience. The band wasted no time going into uncharted territory with an incendiary “Mr Man”. Warren just wailed away on his Gibson Firebird, artfully blending bluesy riffs with blistering rock licks. The nearly sold out crowd was a mix of ages and genders, but long hair and tie dye ruled the night. As the music swelled and filled the chapel like Palace, the congregation danced as one organism.
With a light show straight out of the Haight Ashbury district of San Fransisco, ( I swear I saw the giant mandela behind the band breathing), the Mule continued the artistic journey, putting on a master class in improvisation. “Trane” started of jazzy, with Jorgen Carlsson’s bass doing a ballet dance with Matt Abts drums. Danny Louis tastefully added keyboard fills as the song gains momentum. As some point, Haynes had switched to a Les Paul which he ran through a Leslie organ cabinet, that created crinkly, spacey leads woven throughout the tapestry of the background music. Throught the jam, Warren sprinkled in hints of “Norwegian Wood”.
The highlight of the evening was an extended “St. Steven” jam. Perhaps a tribute to the passing of Robert Hunter this week, Mule stared the tune slowly, and as the room realized what was happening, the song built up tension like a tsunami, washing over the ecstatic audience in a deluge of light and sound.
Gov’t Mule took the grateful audience on an artistic journey, testing the outer limits of experimentation and improvisation with stunning results Saturday night.