Midway through her band’s Saturday night offering of 2013 single “Misunderstood,” a purple-clad Susan Tedeschi glanced back at her guitarist and smiled. The hirsute man was setting his guitar ablaze with flicks of his Florida-born fingers, controlled yet chaotic while flying past frets in front of a sea of entranced fans below Buffalo’s Skyway.
Tedeschi’s grin in itself would have been recognized as a simple look of approval in nearly every other live performance instance. But when said guitarist is virtuoso Derek Trucks, the gentle grin could be accepted as awe. And when Trucks is your husband – as he is Tedeschi’s – that look can also be understood as love.
And this love had a lot of company among the Canalside crowd gathered for the couple’s phenomenal Tedeschi Trucks Band, who welcomed Buffalo’s first day of summer with a rolling rock, blues and soul revue along the city’s waterfront.
To refer to Tedeschi and Trucks as a pre-eminent power couple of their expanded blues genre is to announce the obvious to anyone with eyes, ears or knowledge of their respective careers before they joined as one.
For Tedeschi, the Berklee College of Music grad and electric blues devotee has been known on the national stage since 1998’s “Just Won’t Burn,” which earned her a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. To listen to her voice’s gospel-charged passion is to hear a singer summon lines from the depths of her soul, with each word drenched in purposeful desperation.
For Trucks, the six-string wunderkind and soon-to-be former Allman Brothers Band member is, at 35 years old, already recognized as nothing less than his craft’s standard-bearer for slide guitarists. To watch him navigate a solo is to watch an artist meticulously turn splatters of paint into a beautiful composition, stroke by stroke.
Put the two together and you’ve got a match made in John Lee Hooker heaven, one capable of Grammy-winning albums like 2011’s “Revelator” and last year’s “Made Up Mind.” Add nine other musicians completely in sync with the pair’s proficiencies and you have one of live music’s finest touring collectives, on display Saturday night off the Buffalo River.
Opening up the evening with “Idle Wind,” Tedeschi and Trucks stood center stage, teaming their respective strengths for a gorgeous union. While Tedeschi led with her church hall wail, Trucks filled in the space with his otherworldly Gibson wielding, effortlessly scratching his strings like he was casually itching a mosquito bite. This was a show where the side video screens were essential, just so fans could get an up-close look at Trucks’ mastery, the same hypnotic manipulation that’s made him a suitable stand-in for the late Duane Allman.
As the show rolled on, so did the synergy of the band’s leaders. On “Made Up Mind,” Trucks’ razor-sharp licks set the table before Tedeschi’s sultry vocals stormed forth over Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson’s twin percussion. On “Midnight In Harlem,” the duo softened things up, with Trucks’s tender early chords supporting Tedeschi’s vocals about “freeing your heart” as the sun went down over Lake Erie. And on bouncy single “Part Of Me,” the two teamed aside a horn section-led groove as Tedeschi joined back-up singers to ask the question, “Don’t you know I’ll never love another friend?”
Thankfully, she still loves one, and their harmonious union helped blow Buffalo’s summer doors wide open.
Opening up for Tedeschi Trucks Band was last-minute addition Dive House Union. The Buffalo blues unit gave attendees a taste of what’s made the six-piece band a must-see on the local circuit. Led by lead vocalist/guitarist David Michael Miller, DHU opened with “Son of Many Fathers,” a freewheeling rocker set loose by lead guitarist Todd Eberwine. Dealing out emotive notes on a tie-dyed Fender, he rolled through the opener before backing Miller’s pain on “A Good Shame” and 10-minute jam “Practice What You Preach.”