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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, September 28, 2023
Drive-By Truckers 2

The Dexateens opened for Drive-By Truckers, bringing a rockabilly sound to their performance. 

Drive-By Truckers remind audience of true rock music

It’s been hard to describe the meaning behind rock music these days. It used to be the voice for the powerless, the rebel of the 1950s, the loudspeaker of the 1960s and the counterculture of the 1990s. Since then, it’s resigned as the omnipresent voice of musical power; some stagnant voice that doesn’t really need to change or bend like the world around it. Telling someone you like rock music outside of the city gets pats on the back if it’s a classic and an eye roll if it’s indie; telling someone you like rock music inside the city only gets the latter beyond the high fives of the punks.

But in the Majestic Theatre Sunday night, it all made sense somehow. The Drive-By Truckers rolled comfortably in an array of boozes and beers. They came out in loosely buttoned shirts and jeans, chock-full of “screw it, here’s some rockabilly with The Dexateens in tow, trailers full of heavy hearts, racks of Gibson guitars, a drawl and a guitar lick.” They passed around the occasional bottle of vodka between razor-rockers, hip-swayers and a dosage of that Southern-style storytelling that country radio seems so fond of dulling.

It was a grounded spin through twenty years of that Southern souls, vocals traded between Patterson Hood’s hefty growl and Mike Cooley’s dug-in twang. Sometimes there was a country-rock punch behind it all. “Marry Me” swung with all of the swagger of early Eagles between Cooley’s leads and Hood’s rhythm. Sometimes there was a gentler, literate touch: “Made Up English Oceans” and its western gallop was a wise man’s stomper.

Toss a wild crowd into all of this, one addicted to the blistering reminders of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Warren Zevon that came with every cooed lyric and bent lead. They were a crowd united into one pit-cum-hootenanny, where hats were tossed in the air and rock-on signs were punched toward the stage. They shouted requests against each other, pleaded for “DBT” and punctuated every bit of romance and innuendo with cheers.

That audience’s brightest moment came with “18 Wheels of Love,” Hood’s love-letter to his highway-riding former step-dad and his mom. They jeered with the words and stomped with the riffs, singing to the refrain with the night’s wildest sense of revelry. I expected the floor to give out under the kind of stomping that filled that theater.

But Drive-By Truckers brought a little extra weight with them when they took the stage. What it meant to be one of those rocker purists came to light during the encore, when Hood took the mic with sullen eyes and a wooden SG guitar draped over his neck. Bathed in a blue light, looking on over the cheering Majestic crowd, he began his eulogy.

 “It’s been a hard weekend for anyone who gives a shit about the world… for anyone who’s ever loved someone,” he said quietly. A few chords were strummed and a hush fell. Hood talked about a blow struck to the rock community, a community he saw as a place of love, not war.

 He dwelled on what it meant to be a musician and seeing a concert hall—your cathedral and your sanctuary—attacked, what it meant to hear of members of that community being gunned down in that sanctuary. Their final song was dedicated to the people of Paris and the victims of Le Bataclan, he announced, and the first chords of “Grand Canyon” began filling the theater.

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It was less about finishing a concert and more about saluting their audience, a community of music fans shocked by the events in Paris. And it was a hell of a salute, spun into the feedback-filled finale as three guitars bled their leads on top of one another. Slowly, each member let their instrument give in to the waves of feedback that filled the air behind them. One by one, Drive-By Truckers left the stage, their drummer signing off the final cadence that was slowly tapped to silence.

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