Photo by Ken Sears
Despite Drive-By Truckers being my favorite active band, I almost skipped this show. I already had a lot going on in April, including a ticket to see Guerilla Toss the night before. I had just seen Drive-By Truckers back in August at Green River Festival. I'm not a huge fan of Royale, as it's more of a dance club that sometimes has bands instead of live music venue. I obviously wanted to go, but I was on the fence. Finally I decided I'd go if they added an artist that I really, really wanted to see to the show, and I gave myself the example of Lydia Loveless. Well... they added Lydia Loveless, so I went.
And I'm glad I did, or I would have missed one of the best nights of music of my life. Except for singing a couple of songs after a screening of Who is Lydia Loveless? (Coincidentally five years ago almost to the day of this show), I hadn't seen Lydia Loveless live since a glorious weekend of two shows in a row in 2015. A lot has changed for Loveless since then, and it was a solo performance opening up for the Drive-By Truckers. Of course, this is still Lydia Loveless, so it was hardly a quiet, acoustic affair. Loveless went between an electric guitar and keyboard, relying on a reverb drenched guitar and playing like a solo Bob Mould, Loveless focused quite strongly on her more recent releases for her set. Highlights were "Daughter" on piano and "Verlaine Shot Rimbaud" on guitar. For "Daughter," she said she had to name the album that since everyone thought she was singing "dollar," which changes the meaning of the song entirely. My personal favorite was a piano ballad version of "Head." It was interesting hearing one of the more rocking songs from Somewhere Else completely reworked. Let's hope I don't go another seven years without seeing Loveless.
A Drive-By Truckers show has three phases. The first is the warm up, where it's good, but not great. It almost feels like a sound check, or a practice session. Of course, if you had never seen them before, you'd think you were seeing the best show ever. If you had seen them before, you might think the show wasn't as good as the one before. And if you've seen them a bunch of times, you'd know to just wait. The show started off with "The Living Bubba" and "3 Dimes Down" before the band played a handful of songs off their upcoming album, Welcome to Club XIII. I had never seen Drive-By Truckers just before an album release, so hearing unknown songs was interesting. But, they were just getting their bearings for this part of the show.
The second part of a Drive-By Truckers show is when they get their footing and become great. On Thursday night, this was marked with a trio of "Women Without Whiskey," "My Sweet Annette," and "Marry Me." Those are three of my personal favorite songs, and they're always sure to engage a crowd. The band just started playing looser and getting more into the show at this point. As with their 2020 Somerville Theater show, Red Sox organist Josh Kantor joined them for a few songs, including a much extended punk rock jam of "Hell No, I Ain't Happy" which saw Patterson Hood railing about the Russian attack of Ukraine and the return of the Cold War. You'd think the evening couldn't top that, but somehow it did.
The third part of a Drive-By Truckers show is when they just floor it and hope the audience can keep up. This was marked by the trio of "Sinkhole," "Uncle Frank," and "Lookout Mountain." That's just a dream three songs in a row for long term DBT fans, and might have been the greatest three song series of any concert I've ever been to. The band could have ended then and everyone would have been happy and fulfilled, but they still had six songs to go from there. They slowed it down with the Mike Cooley ballad "When the Pin Hits the Shell" followed by the moody "Tornadoes." Of course, they brought out "Let There Be Rock" towards the end, which is pretty much the only song you're guaranteed to hear at a DBT show. To end, each member of the band left the stage one by one (except Patterson and Cooley who left together) and leaving their instrument feeding back. The last one left was drummer Brad Morgan. Finally, he left and the show ended. No encore, but after two hour and fifteen minute rock show, no one could possibly have complained.