LEWISTON – Warren Haynes is a busy man. Besides playing guitar in the Allman Brothers Band, the Warren Haynes Band, and with various symphony orchestras in a program of music dedicated to Jerry Garcia (his most recent project), Haynes is the driving force behind Gov’t Mule. This last named group has gone from being a side project to occupy him during those times when the Allman Brothers weren’t on the road to being a major league tour attraction in its own right.
Gov’t Mule has been a musical entity for nearly 20 years now and developed a rabid fan base that knows every song and celebrates every jam-packed riff that the band takes off on. Each member in the quartet has a well-developed set of chops, but Haynes is almost always the sonic focus. It’s hard to miss hearing Matt Abts’ pulsing drum beats and then there’s multi-instrumentalist Danny Louis whose solo keyboard spots are deserving of more space; the new bassist Jorgen Carlsson fits in as well, providing a solid bottom for everyone else to spin off of but really, the audience knows who the group’s real raison d’etre is.
When Haynes whips his fingers up and down the guitar frets, bends a string or picks out an intricate pattern, the results are hard to ignore. The sound roars and whispers at his command, a perfect complement to his voice, a rough hewn instrument in its own right.
Wednesday night found the band in top form with a tightly packed audience in front of the stage, nodding their heads and shaking their bodies as the rhythm soared over them. The folks right up front could focus on Haynes’ hands picking and chording while whoever was shooting the video camera (revealed on a pair of large screens to one side of the stage) caught the action for the folks farther back in the crowd. There were even audience members lucky enough to mount their “mics” behind the soundboard and capture the concert for perusal later.
Long, energetic solos took center stage from the get-go. “World Boss” started off the proceedings before segueing into “Railroad Boy” and “Rocking Horse.” Things slowed down a bit with “Banks of the Deep End” and “Time to Confess,” but that just let Haynes bend the notes further and longer, driving the guitar fans listening to him into paroxysms of joy.
By the time the band whipped into “Broke Down on the Brazos,” Carlsson’s thumping bass lines took center stage and propelled the band ever forward. Louis then led into the next tune, “Steppin’ Lightly,” with a clever, funky little organ riff.
So … the audience was psyched enough as it was, but then it became time for the intermission, a time for the band and the audience to regroup but not before Haynes promised that “We’ve got a long night of music planned for you.” Half an hour later, “Inside Outside Woman Blues #3,” “Any Open Window,” “Bad Man Walking” and “Endless Parade” began to fulfill the guitarist’s promise. Things kept going from there. The fans were sated … for a while.