Gov’t Mule was formed in 1994 by Allman Brothers Band members Warren Haynes and Allen Woody, recruiting Matt Abts on drums. Having recorded 14 studio and 7 live albums since then, the band has become much more than just a side project. Inspired by an eclectic musical scope, ranging from ‘60s power trios like Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Mountain, to Neil Young, Soundgarden, Black Sabbath & Otis Redding, trying to predict their set list is nearly impossible. This isn’t helped by their resolve never to do the same set twice. Ever.
That said, this tour is ostensibly in support of their 2013 release, Shout!, so the night kicked off with a furious rendition of World Boss. Warren’s sizzling solo must have been too much for his amp which, facing technical problems, had to be given first aid onstage by his roadie; but that did not slow them down.
The interplay between Haynes and Danny Louis (keys and guitar) was fabulous, particularly on Steppin’ Lightly, in which the latter’s earthy rhythm guitar locked the song together, and accentuated the slinky, smooth tones of the former. Matt Abts’ tight drumwork and Jorgen Carlsson’s throbbing bass provided a solid, engaging backdrop for the musical and physical centre stage of Haynes, who kept the crowd transfixed with his booming vocals and ever-changing guitar playing. He is not ranked 23rd on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time for nothing – his inimitable style blends lightning-fast licks and slow, Albert King-esque bends, often harmonised with his voice.
One fan in particular demonstrated his adoration for the band by euphoric drunken dancing, creating a 10-foot no man’s land around him, for fear of being slapped in the face by his wildly spinning arms. He sported an immense red tattoo of a Buddha on his back (of course he took his shirt off) and shouted, ‘Weee luurvv youu Warrrrn,’ and ‘VIVA LA MULE!’
The encore was the highlight of the two-set show: Bernie Marsden and Joe McGlohon were brought out as guests for a roaring rendition of Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home, with a guitar duel between Marsden and Haynes bringing the crowd to a fever pitch.
The Mule lived up to their reputation as one of the best live bands in the business, and fully demonstrated why they’re not to be missed.
You can download a full recording of their set at the Forum here.