Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — One of two things happens when the opening band plays an amazing set. The headliner looks bad in comparison, or they step up their game and show the fans how it’s done. After an amazing set by The Sheepdogs, Gov’t Mule showed the crowd how it’s done.
There was a vibe at the Ulrich City Centre Friday, one that I had not experienced in quite some time. There was a friendly atmosphere eerily reminiscent of some Grateful Dead shows I attended many years ago, before the Dead began playing stadiums. Other groups like the Dave Matthews Band and Phish have tried with varying degrees of success to capture the vibe, but have fallen short.
One thing that was characteristic of a classic Dead show was the audience being in tune with the band. During the Sheepdogs set, it was evident that the crowd was listening to and feeling the music. In every sense of the word, they “warmed” up the crowd.
By the time Gov’t Mule hit the stage – shortly after 9 p.m. — with the opening notes of “Blind Man in the Dark,” the crowd was ready and willing to absorb what turned out to be a spectacular evening of music for even the casual observer.
Mule is known for playing three-hour sets and thus were in a situation where their nearly two-hour set was actually an abbreviated one. Maybe that gave the band a sense of urgency, because they seemed to be playing at an intense level, which was especially evident during “Fools Moon.”
For years, Warren Haynes has been atop the lists of music magazine reader’s polls for best guitarist. It was hard not to feel the sense that you were in the presence of greatness as you watched Haynes manipulate the fret board.
Even as early as the opening riff to “Bad Little Doggie,” Mule’s second number, it was clear why Haynes was chosen to be part of The Allman Brothers Band.
It’s difficult to pick out a standout number, but if I were forced to I would have to say that during “Fool’s Moon,” the band took the set to another level and never looked back. The song was the seventh in a 16-song set and provided the perfect foundation for the set.
One thing Gov’t Mule has become known for is their selection of covers. On Saturday they played two rock classics, Led Zeppelin’s “D’Yer Maker,” and Humble Pie’s “30 Days in the Hole.” Their interpretation of the Zeppelin song was unique; they played “30 Days” faithfully.
The most interesting cover was Mule’s take on “I’ll Take You There,” originally recorded by The Staple Singers. They weaved the song into “I’ll Be the One,” the band’s second encore. It worked, and even had the crowd engaged in a massive sing-along.
Last year Steven Page opened the series with a show that was great musically but had mediocre attendance due to the weather. This year the series has opened strong, with a large, enthusiastic and well-behaved crowd. They also gave off some of the loudest cheers I have ever heard in Lockport, something the tapers will appreciate for years to come.