Gov't Mule Opera House, Toronto ON - February 12, 2003

Gov't Mule Opera House, Toronto ON - February 12, 2003
This was the first Canadian appearance by heavy blues rockers Gov't Mule since the unfortunate passing of bassist Allan Woody in the summer of 2000. Since then, they have remained busy, touring regularly with a revolving array of bassists and have recorded two new albums dedicated to Woody's memory that feature different guest celebrity bassists on each track. This current tour had the band touring with studio ace Andy Hess — a fan favourite hotly tipped to be announced shortly as Woody's replacement. Playing as a quartet, with the addition of keyboardist Danny Louis, they made the long wait between gigs worth it. Kicking off in laid-back fashion with "Thorazine Shuffle," the band gained momentum with each passing bar, climaxing in a very nice spiralling organ jam that highlighted Louis's talent. The quartet kept building momentum through their first set, touching down on fan favourites "Rocking Horse," "Mule" and "What is Hip" and nailing them. The sold-out crowd was also lucky enough to be present for the return of "Birth Of The Mule" and "Monkey Hill," older songs that have not been performed live since Woody's passing. Hess played masterfully throughout, never missing a note and pushing the band onwards. The whole quartet were so on this evening and their style so fluid that one can only wonder if most of the jam-heads in attendance knew just how heavy of a show they were witnessing. It's hard to say if their musicianship is often lost on the jam-band masses, many of whom are there more for the groove and the party than the songs themselves. After such a superior first set, it seemed unlikely that their second would be anywhere near as good. While it did have some nice moments in it, including a great "Blind Man In The Dark" and a nice jam that followed it, the band never hit the same stride again. But even at that pace this is a band better than most at the top of their game.