Lately, the new definition of a highly anticipated show is one you’ve been waiting nineteen months for. Such was the case tonight for Drive By Truckers, who are back on the road to fulfill a string of tour dates put on hold due to the pandemic. And judging by the wide eyes of the trucker hat, plaid wearing, surly holding men who exited a huddle together screaming “Lets get fucked up!” in line at the Palace theatre, “Highly anticipated” was an understatement.
Opener for the truckers was Buffalo Nichols, outfitted with just a guitar, a microphone, and some very powerful songs. Using a looper pedal and some clever swelling, he transformed the Palace Theatre into a spacey drone to sing and play guitar over. As entranced as he had the audience with this spacey vibe for the first two songs, the crowd seemed to tune out more and more throughout the set – looking for something upbeat and fun.
Nichols had a great mix of spacey, experimental guitar playing and old school blues. Even covering Skip James during his set. Tragically, most of the audience seemed to be off on their own by the end of his set. While most of the general admission audience seemed to still be tuned in, the noise from the back bar and the balcony was too much by the end of the set. Before Friends, Nichols told the audience “This is for anyone who’s listening out there.” Then, before his last song, he had enough. “I know you didnt come here to see me” He said calmly “But if you have any respect for me as a human being, could you shut the fuck up for the next four minutes so I can play you this song.” The song Another Man, off his latest self titled EP, definitely seemed to be louder and played with more anger in an attempt to grab the audience’s attention back. Even more so, the lyrics seemed very poignant, given what we had experienced in the Twin Cities last summer. After a curt thank you, Nichols exited the stage. The lack of respect an audience has for the opening act, especially as good as Buffalo Nichols, is a common theme i’ve seen too many times at the Palace Theatre. His songs are important,and played well. Here’s hoping he comes back soon to a less talkative crowd.
Anticipation was high for Drive By Truckers. In March of 2020, They were en route to Minnesota to play a show before they shut it down – just like everything else – at the start of the pandemic. “We were so close to getting here, ” said Patterson Hood a few songs into his set. Now, nineteen months later, they finally made it. Opening with The Living Bubba, a line in that song could not have been more poignant: “I can’t die now, because i’ve got another show to do.”
The band is celebrating the 20th anniversary of their third record and “magnum opus” Southern Rock Opera. And a Rock Opera is exactly what they gave their audience at the Palace last night. It was a typical guitar frenzy, with every song reaching atmospheric heights, ending with symbol crashing and feedback. It’s energy was high, and seldom did it die off. “I thought they would be more Americana” said a surprised, but perhaps not very disappointed date to her significant other while exiting the theatre after the show.
But on top of the high energy of the show, it was also long. In typical rock show fashion, the band took the stage late (but only by a few minutes) and ended the show well past midnight. In over two and a half hours of music, they managed to fit 28 songs into their setlist. Being that most bands don’t even have 28 songs to perform, the amount of songs the truckers were able to pull from their 13 Album catalog was a magnificent feat, especially since every night of the tour will have different songs from one another, or at least a rearranged setlist.
Songs from Southern Rock Opera made up the majority of the setlist tonight, and have remained just as important today as they were 20 years ago, although it’s hard to see much that has changed in that time. Also included were two covers, Im Eighteen by Alice Cooper, and The KKK took my baby Away by the Ramones. They ended their tenure on the stage at the Palace with Angels and Fuselage.
With the energy in the songs, and the sheer amount of them, audience members were more than fulfilled with their set after the show, and many mentioned it was absolutely worth the wait from their original show, which felt like a lifetime ago.