I’ve been hard on the Drive-By Truckers the past few years here on ninebullets, I know. Truth is, I’ve been even harder on them in my own mind, so when they posted Florida tour dates that made it to Tampa for only the second time since Isbell left the band, my excitement was about that of an eight year old with Brussels sprouts on his dinner plate. Ultimately, I decided I was gonna miss the show here in Tampa in favor of attending a local band’s show and figured that would be that. But, as fate would have it, the band’s publicist reached out to me the day of the Tampa show and next thing I knew the wife and I were gonna be driving to Orlando the next night for the DBT show at the House of Blues.
Now, it bears mentioning that I still wasn’t bouncing-off-the-walls excited to go to the show, I had just agreed to go see it. The wife and I had also agreed that if it sucked we were leaving immediately. The last two times I’d seen the Truckers (once with Isbell and once without), the band seemed less than interested in the show, bordering on distracted. I wasn’t the only one who noticed, either. I chalked it up to fatigue, band tensions or a product of getting bigger and playing bigger venues, but ultimately it didn’t matter. The only thing that did matter was that they disappointed me, so a few years and a couple of albums that fell below the band’s high water mark pass later, and I find myself walking into the House of Blues to see what the band is like these days. To put it bluntly, I was not expecting to be blown away, amazed or rocked. I only hoped to be entertained.
I was entertained. I was rocked. And, hell, I was blown away.
The band was as good as I’ve seen them in years. Patterson’s smile was back. Cooley looked like he wanted to be there. As a whole, it was like the band had their moxie back and the setlist seemed to suggest the same thing. The first ½ of the show was dominated by tracks from Southern Rock Opera and spiced with choice selections from Patterson & Cooley’s contributions from Decoration Day and The Dirty South. The latter ½ of the show saw the pace mellow a little, as the band began introducing songs from the upcoming Go-Go Boots to the crowd, but it never let up enough to bore you as Cooley managed to squeeze “Birthday Boy” and “Ghost To Most” in there, with Patterson dropping “Tornadoes” into the last portion of the show. In the end, my only complaint about the show would have to have been the crowd. Orlando shows usually make me jealous of the Orlando scene, but the House of Blues crowd was lethargic to the point of being a deterrent to a good time (luckily Mr. Jimmy Beam kept the good times on tap).
So if the band is hitting your neck of the woods in the coming months, go check them out. They seem to be enjoying the road again and are putting on a great rock show right now.
Songs taken from Live From Austin, Texas