It seemed only fitting that Patterson Hood was the first of the Drive-By Truckers to bound onstage last night at The Dame. Beaming unbreakable smiles to the sold out audience, the singer, guitarist and overall Drive-By driving force had been sidelined in recent weeks with pneumonia, causing a month-long postponement of the band’s first Lexington show in nearly four years.
And, true to form, Hood’s very obvious love of performance fueled much of the two hour concert, whether it was in through crusty honky tonk reveries (The Company I Keep), electric country laments (Dead, Drunk and Naked) or guitar hook-happy mood pieces (the Steve Earle-meets-The Troggs Southern Rock Opera rocker Ronnie and Neil). But as the concert commenced, Hood was into showing off the colors – both in musical texture and lyrical temperament – that now percolate around the Truckers’ best music.
The show opening Goode’s Field Road, for instance, was a dark rural tale of unavoidable (and unplanned) farewell from the band’s ultra fine 2008 album Brighter Than Creation’s Dark. Against the tune’s bleak storyline sat the Truckers’ secret weapon, pedal steel guitarist John Neff, who added coats of plaintive country longing to much of the two hour show.
But then Hood and Neff constituted only two of the band’s distinctive voices. While Hood dressed his Neil Young-esque songs with Rick Danko-like vocal drama, co-guitarist Mike Cooley offered Keith Richards-level soul and mischief during 3 Dimes Down and Guitar Man Upstairs.
Cooley’s country spirit seemed more guarded than Patterson’s rootsy vibe in songs like When the Pin Hits the Shell (“I ain’t no cowboy. I ain’t going where I don’t belong”) while bass guitarist Shona Tucker all but channeled Neko Case’s sense of crisp country adventure during I’m Sorry Huston. She also let the band bookend her vocal lead on Home Field Advantage with blasts of guitar/drums psychedelia that borrowed favorably from Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd.
While it was continually a blast to watch so many rock inspirations receive the Truckers’ Southern fried makeover (a personal favorite was the Clash-like riffs that opened and closed The Righteous Path), the show purposely included a few unseemly but still vital tour stops. The set, in fact, finished with Hood’s You and Your Crystal Meth and Cooley’s Buttholeville. Such testimonies might have seemed disparaging on the surface. But both tunes simply made the Truckers’ new Southern vision all the more complete and compelling.