Last night was the final show of the 2022 run of The Tedeschi Trucks band “Wheels of Soul” tour, which acts as a old school soul revue style show, bringing along a group of bands to perform. I last saw the Wheels of Soul tour with Chris Robinson, and the late Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Since then, few of the Wheels of Soul tours have come through Minnesota, which makes this show in Moorhead all the more special for soul fans of the upper midwest. I spoke with fans who drove all the way from Iowa and Idaho just to see this summer’s lineup.
While im not sure if this was the case during all shows, or it was just something that makes the last show special, Each act seemed to have a melting pot of musicians join the groups during their sets. Opener Gabe Dixon, who is also the pianist for the Tedeschi Trucks Band, started as just a trio for the first four songs on stage, before welcoming Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks on stage for parts of his set, and by the end, had a full horns section also borrowing from musicians from Tedeschi Trucks band, and the next act, Los Lobos.
Los Lobos was introduced as just “A band from East LA” however their impact on Americana and Tex Mex music means they deserve much more than the humble introduction. Their band dates back to 1973, and with 17 studio albums, and countless live albums and musical features, You can Imagine it was hard to fit the full scope of their capabilities into an hour long set. But like Gabe Dixon’s set, It felt much more like a party than it did a serving of their catalog. The band also welcomed Derek Trucks and some of the Tedeschi horns section to their stage, for songs like What’s Going On, a Marvin Gaye cover with Susan Tedeschi handling the vocals, It Hurts Me Too, A Tampa Red Blues standard cover featuring Gabe Dixon on vocals, and each of the Los Lobos boys and Derek Trucks taking turns showing off their blues guitar skills. Derek also stuck around for the last song of their set, Más y más.
Derek Trucks is a master guitarist in his own right, and I don’t hesitate to call him the greatest slide guitarist in the history of the instrument. However his role in the Tedeschi Trucks band is more of a Maestro than it is a Master. In the quiet moments of songs, Derek acts as a conductor. Slowly walking to one of the twelve band members on stage, signaling to them that it is their time to shine. Depending on the song, he’ll move from one band member to another, playing rhythm guitar, before moving back in front of his amp, and if the song calls for it, doing his own solo. He’s relaxed when holding his guitar, rhythmically strumming so effortlessly, it’s almost like he doesn’t know it’s in front of him. While guitar heads wait – at times impatiently – for Derek to blow their minds at these shows with his slide, his solos are few, in favor of showcasing the band. He’s making sure you’re there for more than just his playing, which is a very important role to have as a frontman.
His wife Susan, on the other hand, does not hold back when it comes to her singing or playing. Her speaking voice is bright, southern, and sweet, while her singing is loud and more guttal. If you haven’t heard her before, you’d be surprised with how soulful it is as well. As much as people want to think the band revolves around Derek, the reality is that the Tedeschi Trucks band needs Susan’s voice for it to work. Together, Derek and Susan have been staples of the Americana, Blues, and Rock scene for over 20 years.
Yet while the band has its front two members in its name, There’s ten other people that make up the “Band” part of their name. Gabe Dixon plays keys and vocals, Brandon Boone on bass, and Two drummers. Tyler “Falcon” Greenwell and Isaac Eady playing two separate drumkits. Minnesota’s own Mike Mattison, Mark Rivers, and Alecia Chakour stand in the back as backup vocalists, And three more members play as a brass group. Kebbi Williams on saxophone, Ephraim Owens on trumpet and Elizabeth Lea on trombone.
The Tedeschi Trucks band recently put out an album in April called I Am The Moon, released as a 4 part studio album with 24 new songs across each of the 4 releases, the last release coming just last week. The albums act as a continued departure from the southern rock, “Mad Dogs & Englishman” style band they are known for, and more into an experimental Jam-band like territory. As a result, six of the night’s twelve songs were from the latest release, performed entirely in the first half of the set. The songs were inspired by the themes and story of 12 century Persian poem Layla & Majnun, with band members contributing their own different ideas and perspectives on the story, reimagining the poem through a modern lens. Initially, based on the folded arms of light beer holding seniors in Allman Brothers Band tee shirts, it seemed like the crowd wasn’t quite on board with the new territory from the band. However, like each of the 4 albums, the six songs they performed in succession acted as a story of its own for the band, and the crowd seemed to be grasping the stories towards the end of the newer songs. By the end of Pasaquan, They seemed to be appreciative, and no longer apprehensive, of the new material.
The other half of the set, however, was classic Tedeschi Trucks band, mixing in covers and original music of their own that the crowd was mostly familiar with. Their cover of Derek and the Dominos Keep on Growing reaches stratospheric heights that Bobby Whitlock and Eric Clapton never thought it could reach on their original recording in 1970. The crescendos during the main part of the song, as well as the coda at the end, were completely out of the realm of what I thought was possible with an already simple arrangement. The band also kept their door open for musicians from earlier in the night to join them. David Hidalgo and Louie Pérez of Los Lobos joined the guitar fury on Keep On Growing and a cover of War’s The World Is a Ghetto that followed.
Midnight In Harlem, Perhaps the band’s most well known song, was a great way to chill the vibe at the end of the set, fans now out of their seats and swaying with their loved ones. Gabe Dixon majestically performed the delicate organ parts to the song, while Derek took us from a quiet beat to a grand, soulful crescendo, just using a piece of glass on his guitar. They closed the set with a banger, 2013’s Made Up Mind from the album of the same name, and only did a one song encore (a rarity nowadays with many bands now doing 2 or even 3 songs) Performing a cover of Dr. John’s I Walk on Guided Splinters.
Looking back on the night, it was clear that each band liked being able to share the music that was important to them, just as much as the music they make themselves. Between the three sets, over a quarter of the music played were covers, and it seemed like each band enjoyed playing and partying with each other onstage for the last night of the tour. It is a soul revue after all, and with years of stacked lineups behind the Tedeschi Trucks band summer tours, Myself and many others hope the Wheels of Soul roll through Minnesota again next year.