As Derek Trucks took the first of several searing guitar solos Wednesday in front of dual drummers at the Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland, members of the audience of about 2,000 would have been forgiven if they thought they were witnessing the second coming of the Allman Brothers Band.
Trucks was the youngest member of the Southern rock group when the venerable ensemble played its final show in 2014. His long blond ponytail, mastery of the electric guitar and penchant for employing two drummers evoke the classic rock of the 1970s.
Yet the Tedeschi Trucks Band, the 12-member aggregation Trucks leads with his wife, Susan Tedeschi, isn’t an opportunist pastiche pandering to nostalgic baby boomers.
For almost 2 1/2 hours (not including a 30-minute intermission), the group minimized excessive soloing while emphasizing invigorating R&B grooves. A three-piece horn section and three outstanding supplemental vocalists made interpretations of material associated with Ray Charles (“Let’s Go Get Stoned”) and Bobby “Blue” Bland (“I Pity the Fool”) seem brand new.
The band’s best original material is no less vital.
A rendition of the magnificent “Don’t Know What It Means,” one of the standout tracks from the group’s recently released third album, sounded like a faithful cover of an Otis Redding hit. “Do I Look Worried” was a robust slice of Houston-style blues.
Most selections centered on Tedeschi’s vocals and Trucks’ guitar solos.
Tedeschi’s powerful voice filled the theater even on the handful of occasions she sang off-mic. Unfortunately, the excellent sound mix couldn’t prevent the chatter emanating from the bar at the back of the main floor from disrupting Tedeschi’s tender singing on a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on the Wire.”
Trucks is a reluctant guitar hero.
He prefers making his instrument quietly sob rather than loudly scream. His contemplative, occasionally dissonant statement during “Idle Wind” evoked the jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter.
Tedeschi’s guitar solo on “I Pity the Fool” was far flashier than any of her husband’s excursions.
The evening’s group improvisations were a mixed bag.
A jam at the conclusion of “Don’t Miss Me’ stretched until it unceremoniously snapped. A free-form session during “I Want More” meandered until Kofi Burbridge’s persuasive flute solo provided clarity, while the freaky funk adventure that followed “Don’t Know What It Means” was deeply satisfying.
The Allman Brothers Band is gone, but Wednesday’s impressive outing indicated that Trucks and his colleagues have forged an even more potent sound.
“Made Up Mind”
“Do I Look Worried”
“Laugh About It”
“Bird on the Wire”
“Don’t Miss Me”
“Don’t Know What It Means”
“Anyhow My Lord”
“I Want More”
“Midnight in Harlem”
“Crying Over You”
“Just As Strange”
“Let Me Get By”
“I Pity the Fool”
“Bound For Glory”
“Let’s Go Get Stoned”