Photos by Jim Gavenus
ALLENTOWN — Moments after opening their show at Miller Symphony Hall in downtown Allentown last week with “Misunderstood,” from their new album, “Made Up Mind,” Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks converged in front of the 11-musician ensemble’s dual drum kits.
As Trucks, 34, leaned over to tweak some guitar gear, he and Tedeschi, his wife of a dozen years, swapped smoldering grins.
The on-stage chemistry between this married musical power couple, which combines his unmistakable electric slide guitar and her soulful and chilling, bluesy Bonnie Raitt-like vocals, was evident from the start at the 1,200-seat venue that, surprisingly, had a good share of vacant balcony seats.
Tedeschi (pronounced teh-DESK-ee), eight years older than her husband and a skilled guitarist herself, is clearly this band’s frontwoman. Trucks neither sang nor spoke a peep into a microphone all night. He seems content as a sidekick, refreshingly letting his guitar do the talking.
And why not? Visually zeroing in on Trucks during a workmanlike performance, you wouldn’t figure he’s widely considered an all-time guitar god (ranked No. 16 in Rolling Stone’s Top 100, just four slots behind Stevie Ray Vaughn in 2011) and strumming for the Allman Brothers band since 1999.
While he’s deserving of that status, the bearded, pony-tailed nephew of Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks is neither flashy nor dictatorial on stage. Perhaps that makes Tedeschi the alpha in this marriage, and what makes this band work.
It’s clearly a formula that’s made a merger of the Susan Tedeschi Band and Derek Trucks Band a success that corporate America should envy. They captured a 2011 Grammy for their debut album “Revelator.”
Thursday night, Trucks and Tedeschi demonstrated they are no control freaks, surrendering the stage throughout the 1-hour, 50-minute, 16-song set to a talented collection of musicians that includes a three-man horn section and combines a blues-heavy repertoire with a jazz concert vibe.
With a brass section made up of Kebbi Williams on sax, Maurice Brown on trumpet and Saunders Sermons on trombone, Tedeschi and Trucks gave their bandmates wide latitude to improvise.
The highlight of the evening was “Midnight in Harlem,” a song composed by Tedeschi-Trucks backup vocalist Mike Mattison, a Harvard grad who otherwise lends lead vocals for the Derek Trucks Band.
Kofi Burbridge emerged from his keyboard bunker to play the flute, providing accompaniment for a Trucks jam that included drummers J.J. Johnson and Tyler Greenwell, a duo setup reminiscent of the Allman Brothers’ percussion combo.
The band welcomed on stage Tash Neal, guitarist for the night’s opener London Souls, for a cover of the Beatles’ “I’ve Got a Feeling.”
Tedeschi Trucks closed the evening with John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery,” mixed with Jerry Garcia’s “Sugaree,” and a Led Zeppelin-esque encore of “Get What You Deserve,” a Derek Trucks Band song with Mattison on lead vocals.
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