By Jason SchneiderIt's been a long time since the Drive-By Truckers played a venue as intimate as Waterloo, ON's 300-capacity Starlight, and the concentrated energy of the die-hards packed into the room made it clear from the outset that this wouldn't be just another gig for beloved Southern rock torchbearers.
A stately, powerful version of "Carl Perkins' Cadillac" set the tone, and immediately erased any fears that the band's current six-piece lineup would be too much for the small space. All of the instruments and vocals came across warm and clear, and by the third number, "Birthday Boy" from 2010's The Big To-Do, both the band and the crowd could sense that something special was building.
That was confirmed when things were slowed down for "Used to Be a Cop" and the title track of the band's latest album Go-Go Boots, with vocalist/guitarist Patterson Hood squeezing every drop of drama out of both songs. However, the advantage in the first half of the show went to the Truckers' other frontman, Mike Cooley, who turned in excellent renditions of the more familiar "Where the Devil Don't Stay" and "Gravity's Gone," which both got the crowd into a frenzy.
Perhaps the only point of contention was that bassist Shonna Tucker only got one chance to show off her increasingly impressive lead vocals on the Go-Go Boots track "Dancin' Ricky." Yet there were no complaints about the subsequent acoustic portion that saw them dig deep into their catalogue for "Wife Beater" from 1998's Gangstabilly and "Too Much Sex (Too Little Jesus)" from the follow-up, Pizza Deliverance.
Hood took over from that point on, finally acknowledging the spirit within the room and turning it into full-on celebration, beginning with Eddie Hinton's "Everybody Needs Love" and ending with main set closer "Hell No, I Ain't Happy."
Hood remained in full Springsteen mode for the extended encore, wading into the crowd for guitar solos and resurrecting the ghosts of Lynyrd Skynyrd with "Shut Up and Get On the Plane" and "Let There Be Rock." He seemed genuinely moved by the reception, and hopefully his announcement to the audience that he would love the band to play Waterloo again was also genuine.
Further kudos must be given to Toronto's the Beauties, who, due to the sheer amount of DBTs gear on the stage, had to play their opening set in a corner of the room. The unusual arrangement hardly proved a hindrance, though, as they proved conclusively that they have quickly become one of the best live bands within the Canadian roots rock scene. Extra points for their novel cover of Led Zeppelin's "South Bound Saurez."