Gov't Mule Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto, ON October 27

Gov't Mule Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto, ON October 27
American blues rock veterans Gov't Mule celebrated the release of their brand new studio album By a Thread with a special "Evening With..." performance that was the first of only two Canadian shows on their current North American tour. The night also marked the Canadian debut of the quartet with new bassist Jorgen Carlsson, who joined last year after the departure of Andy Hess.

It was clear way before the end of the first song, "Blind Man in the Dark," that Carlsson is the right man for the job, possessing a great intuitive sense that saw him and drummer Matt Abts forming a solid bottom end for guitarist Warren Haynes's and organist Danny Louis's extended soloing and jamming. Carlsson's picked style of playing is more reminiscent of original bassist Allen Woody, who died unexpectedly in 2000, than his immediate predecessor.

The band were smart to make stops at all points of their 15-year career, playing fan favourites like "Thorazine Shuffle," "Mule" and "Trane," interspersed with newer album tracks. However, the biggest cheers of the night actually came for cover songs that were hinted at or thrown into the mix in interesting ways. "Trane" featured portions of both the Jimi Hendrix classic "Third Stone From the Sun" and "Norwegian Wood," while the strong Deadhead contingent in the audience - Haynes also plays in the reformed Dead - were in ecstasy when the band slammed their way through an instrumental jam of the Grateful Dead classic "St. Stephen," which featured some nice bluegrass-inspired guitar work in its second half.

Split into two sets of music, the band were much more rocking throughout the first, heading into slightly more pedestrian territory for the second half. However, the three-song encore redeemed the lackadaisical effort of the second set. Joined onstage by longtime pal (and current producer) Gordie Johnson, the band's take on the classic blues shuffle "Smokestack Lightning" was excellent, while "I'm A Ram" was a fitting end to a solid, if somewhat frustrating, night of heavy jams.