in performance: ohio river throwdown

tedeschi trucks

susan tedeschi and derek trucks.

If you ever wanted to be witness to the full genesis of a contemporary music jam, you should have been on hand as the Tedeschi Trucks Band closed out the day-long Ohio River Throwdown at Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati yesterday.

With the moon shining brilliantly over the stage and crisp autumnal cool blowing in off the river, the 11 piece rock and soul revue let a fearsome free jazz implosion deconstruct, reassemble and then skyrocket into the volcanic groove of Nobody’s Free. All the band’s strengths took over from there – Susan Tedeschi’s clear but potent R&B vocal charge, the ensemble’s double-drum rhythms and horn accented textures and a sterling Derek Trucks guitar solo that took flight as the band briefly trimmed itself down to a quintet.

But this was just one of many treats that highlighted the inaugural Throwdown, which utilized the Riverbend stage, the smaller PNC Pavilion and a makeshift stage set up on the concession grounds.

Here are some of the other standouts:

+ A typically no frills set of regal roots rock comfort food by Los Lobos that mixed cumbia, Tex Mex and brilliant triple guitar jams. But the comparatively bittersweet meditation of Burn It Down (from 2010’s Tin Can Trust) proved Los Lobos hasn’t lost a step through the decades.

+ A blast of revivalistic Florida soul and funk courtesy of JJ Grey and Mofro, which ignited a late afternoon set with the self-help jams of Better Days and the more ferocious 99 Shades of Crazy, the latter of which worked off a playful, ambient keyboard riff.

+ A somewhat shell-shocked Alejandro Escovedo who compensated the absence of his guitarist (who “left unexpectedly”) with the impromptu additions of Los Lobos vets David Hidalgo and Steve Berlin. A resulting cover of Neil Young’s Like a Hurricane became stormy indeed.

+ Two variations on soul music essentials – the lean, contemporary, keyboard driven drive of Chicago’s JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound and a vastly more traditional serving of Wilson Pickett-style R&B and funk from the tireless Charles Walker and the Dynamites.

We’ll hold off on comments on sets by The Rides and Beth Hart until after their Monday reprise concert at the Opera House. Both sounded great. Just don’t be late for Hart. Her joyously nasty set truly offered the lowdown on the Throwdown.

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