Live At The Beacon Theatre

Gov't Mule

Evil Teen, 2020

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


As befitting of a sprawling jam band with a lot of friends that likes to hang loose, Gov’t Mule treated fans to a four-hour show on New Year’s Eve 2017 at the Beacon Theatre in New York. Now, nearly three years later, the high-quality soundboard recording of the show has been made available as a download/streaming-only release.

The hook of this release, besides the length, is the very long setlist of covers. The band plays seven originals and then launches into 20-some cover songs, many featuring “revolution” or “change” in the title. The impetus for this, as was not uncommon at the time, was the Trump administration that took office in Jan. 2017 and the state of mind that many artists – and Americans – felt at that time. That energy was channeled into 2017’s studio album Revolution Come, Revolution Go, four songs from which are sprinkled throughout this set.

As noted, the first six songs represent a pretty standard Mule set, moving through blues rock jams from the 1995 debut (“Painted Silver Light”), 1998’s Dose (“Larger Than Life”), 2000’s Life Before Insanity (“Lay Your Burden Down”), 2004’s About To Rage (“Deja Voodoo”) and then reaching back to the 1991 Allman Brothers album Shades Of Two Worlds for the magnificent, fiery 16-minute instrumental “Kind Of Bird” (which Warren Haynes co-wrote with Dickey Betts, on what was his second album with the reunited band). “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground” is a phenomenal Blind Willie Johnson track, used to close both Revolution Come and the first set of this Beacon show.

The second set features Bay Area freelance blues rock singer-songwriter Jackie Greene and kicks off with a funky take on the obscure Steely Dan track “Daddy Don’t Live In That New York City No More,” followed by Thunderclap Newman’s “Something In The Air” and Dr. John’s “Revolution,” which…okay. Better is the cover of James Brown’s “Funky President (People It’s Bad),” and it’s here that one realizes just how skilled Gov’t Mule is at sliding from blues to funk to rock to soul without a care in the world.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It’s not that the covers are not expertly played, it’s just that there are so many of them. I get that Haynes and co. wanted to recreate the live experience at home, and one show in particular, but when you’re in a live setting it’s easy to get carried on adrenaline and lost in the music. At home, setting aside four hours for a show just seems like a slog, especially when you can hit skip. That said, since this is a digital-only release, there’s no reason to sit through it all in one sitting.

So, of the rest of the album, there are a few highlights. Race toward the lost T. Rex single “Children Of The Revolution,” a white-hot burner that is way better than I remembered, and a contender for best song here. The versions of Bob Marley’s “Revolution,” Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” and Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” are noteworthy for their diversity but not quite as amazing as some of the other cuts. There is of course an electric “Auld Lang Syne” (this being New Year’s Eve, of course), followed by Haynes shouting into a megaphone for several minutes to cover Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” because why not? At this point, we’re halfway through the album.

Takes on “Changes” and “For What It’s Worth” isn’t as inspired as one would hope, but Neil Young’s “Revolution Blues” is better, fitting the tenor of the show and the times as good as any Neil song you care to name. Even better is the Temptations’ “Ball Of Confusion,” a song that does not get played enough when thinking of that great Motown band.

The encore, which is a solid 45 minutes, hits Allman Brothers classics “Melissa” and “Mountain Jam,” careens into Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World” (which Pearl Jam has the market cornered on, sorry) and then Hendrix’s “Machine Gun.” At this point, the show has long since felt like overkill, and so this all ends up being more of the same. Expertly played, energetic, probably a life-affirming experience live, but just too much of a good thing.

But again, it’s a digital-only release, and too much Gov’t Mule and/or live blues-rock is better than none, so there’s no reason not to check this one out. Start with the highlights and then explore personal favorites at your leisure, preferably with a beer, and ring in 2021 with this soon-to-be-classic Gov’t Mule New Year’s show.

Rating: B

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