By Chuck Cox
“See You at the Rock Show” is the mantra of Southern rockers Drive-By Truckers.
And those six words could not have applied any more than they did to the band’s two-plus-hour set on Saturday night at Billy Bob’s. I’m pretty sure it was the first time for the band to play the “World’s Largest Honky Tonk,” which made it a cool show to start with.
Through seemingly endless lineup changes and even personal tragedy, Drive-By Truckers prove time and time again it will soldier on and provide one hell of a rock show every time the band steps on stage and plugs in an amp.
Saturday’s concert came exactly one week after longtime travelling road crew member Craig Lieske unexpectedly passed away. And as Patterson Hood dedicated “The Living Bubba” to Lieske, he told the crowd the Truckers were “doing exactly what he [Lieske] would have wanted them to do.” It was a touching moment on a night where the band perfectly, slowly built a thorough set into a thunderous finale. We’ll get back to that in a minute.
It was, however, a somewhat strange DBT show for me. It was the third time for me to see the band, but it was the first time I had seen it without now former bassist Shonna Tucker. Perhaps that was why the show felt a little slow to get going to me. The thing I always enjoyed about seeing DBT in the past is the alternating of lead vocals between Hood and Mike Cooley, the Athens, Georgia, band’s co-founding members. And having Tucker jump in and sing a song or two made for some incredible balance most bands don’t have. She also sang a few great DBT songs, like “You’ve Got Another” and “I’m Sorry, Huston.”
Interestingly, openers Houndmouth fall into the category of one of those bands that can provide that balance. All four members played instruments and handled lead vocals on at least one song of its solid 30-minute set.
Once DBT got about halfway through its show, it really started to hit its stride. And, as far as I’m concerned, the band’s four-song encore was pretty much as good as it gets. All of the last four songs – ”Zip City,” “Let There Be Rock,” “Shut Up and Get on the Plane,” and “Angels and Fuselage” – came from DBT’s epic Southern Rock Opera. Incredible. Hood even gave some love to local rockers Slobberbone with a shout out during “Let There Be Rock.”
And when it was all said and done, I knew I had seen a rock show. And that I’ll be back to see one the next time the band rolls around.