I don’t know about you but when I was younger and someone told me the word “blues”, I ultimately thought “old person’s music” – similarly to what most young people think of classical music. With age comes maturity (of some sorts) and now I can appreciate all kinds of music. However, 12 year old me was wrong because even if the blues is listened to by a majority of older people, it is much more energetic and passionate than you may think. Take a Gov’t Mule show for instance. The awesomeness of this band is that any rock fan can like them. Whether you prefer the slower or the louder, Gov’t Mule are not overtly bluesy, they have the attitude, they have the virtuosity, the passion, the riffs, the solos, the amazing vocals – what else do you need?
On this fine Bank Holiday Monday evening, the band featuring Warren Haynes, Matt Abts, Danny Louis and Jorgen Carlsson performed a three-hour long double set filled with lots of Gov’t Mule goodies. It is well known that no Gov’t Mule concert is the same and that night was no different; the band played continuously without stopping and unless you are well-versed with Gov’t Mule’s back catalogue (as well as The Allman Brothers Band or any blues or classic rock artists) then it is unlikely that you will be able to distinguish when one song finishes and the other starts. Fortunately, I did recognise something (I do not consider myself a Gov’t Mule expert…yet) and I can say that we were treated to the obvious classics in the shape of “Soulshine”, “Beautifully Broken”, “Mule” or some of my favourites: “Mr. High & Mighty” and “About to Rage”.
It was not just Gov’t Mule playing though. As tradition dictates, the unexpected is to be expected when Haynes and co. are on stage. Elliot Randall (of Steely Dan fame) joined in for an Ann Peebles cover of “I Feel like Breaking up Somebody’s Home” at the beginning of the second set. Shortly after, the Mule and Randall were joined by two more guests: Bernie Marsden (of early Whitesnake fame) and saxophonist Joe McGlohon for a sentimental B.B. King tribute with “The Thrill Is Gone” which followed after an emotional speech by Haynes about how the King influenced him. Towards the end of the set Reeves Gabrels (who used to work with David Bowie and is a member of The Cure since 2012) joined the Mule for The Allman Brothers Band track “Soulshine” and a Free tribute with “Little Bit of Love”. The last track was dedicated to the founding member of Free, Andy Fraser, who recently passed away and was originally supposed to join the band to jam on stage on this night.
Just by looking at the guests’ names and their affiliations with famous bands and artists, it is evident that the Mule have many connections in the music world. They are not just connections though, these are friends of the band and it can be seen through how much they are all enjoying themselves on stage. Also when they are paying tribute to their friends and influences, it is then when one realises that these connections are very strong on an emotional level and not only on a music business one. When the Mule plays cover songs, they are true tributes to their influences, friends and those who have left them. That’s what makes a Gov’t Mule show emotional, fruitful and, thus, more realistic. I advise you to go out and see the Mule live if you get the chance. I will be waiting for the next time they visit London while I study their back catalogue in more detail.