By Micah McLain
Drive-By Truckers’ three-night stand at the 40 Watt has become a near annual event, as the band opens the tour for each new album in their adopted hometown of Athens. The opening dates of the “Go Go Boots Tour 2011” were no different as Friday night found the band in front of a sold-out crowd full of long-time fans as well as drunken frat boys who had heard of the face melt that is a DBT “Rock Show.”
The band is known for their consistently impressive (and surprisingly long) live performances as well as their innate ability to personify “the Southern thing.” Led by the excellent songwriting and vocals of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, DBT has continued to impress critics worldwide even as their expected rise to super stardom has taken longer than most expected. This, however, is a very good thing, because it allows us fans to see them play in bars as intimate as the 40 Watt when they could just as easily sell out venues four to five times its size.
Since they had just previewed Go-Go Boots in it’s entirety the night before, DBT was able to devote the majority of Friday night’s set to older material and fan favorites. Although Hood’s song output is considerably higher than Cooley’s, the last few tours have seen an increase in the amount of vocal time that “The Stroker Ace” gets on stage. The pair alternated songs during the first half of the set as Cooley performed emotional fan favorites such as “Zip City” and “Women Without Whiskey,” while Hood fired back with the Iraq war-inspired “That Man I Shot” and the DBT classic “The Company I Keep.” Musically this band continues to get tighter and more powerful with each tour; no surprise since DBT is one of the hardest working bands in the industry with respect to both touring and recording. Guitarist John Neff has become an integral part of the band. He seems perfectly comfortable within the group dynamic and his soulful slide guitar carries many DBT tracks like “Three Dimes Down.”
Surprisingly, the only thing missing during the Truckers set was the signature bottle of Jack Daniels being passed around stage as the band apparently chose to upgrade to a bottle of Patron for this performance … although I sincerely hope that this was just a one night aberration. A Drive-By Truckers show at the 40 Watt has become one of the quintessential concert events in the Southeast. Any real music fan owes it to themselves to witness the “Rock Show” at least once, although there should be ample opportunities to do so as the Truckers seem to still be gaining momentum and show no sign of slowing down anytime soon.