The humidity threatened to dampen spirits and leave concertgoers sweaty at Al Lang Stadium, but St. Petersburg fans of Tedeschi Trucks Band never looked the worse for wear on Sunday as the Florida soul and blues collective effortlessly worked through its two-hour set as part of the band’s “Wheels of Soul” tour with Blackberry Smoke and Shovels & Rope.
While wife-husband duo Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks don’t do much talking onstage, their playing, and the rest of the band, still managed to say a lot thanks to ghostly, gospel-esque vocals and the magnolia-scented slide guitar melodies of songs like “Made Up My Mind” where Trucks loosened up the crowd’s shoulders before Tedeschi worked through a take on B.B. King’s “How Blue Can You Get.”
Songs from the band’s new album, Signs, played well in the pleasantly balmy conditions, but a trombone solo (it’s hot when you can almost hear the spit pooling up near the water key, right?) during “Leavin’ Trunk” lit the set on fire with a sound that found the perfect marriage between jam band and Sunday church service. Organ player Gabe Dixon traded licks with Trucks on an electrified run through “Laugh About It,” which served as a gentle reminder of the recent passing of co-founding Tedeschi Trucks member Kofi Burbridge, who died earlier this year.
Tedeschi (who drew cheers during a fan-favorite medley of “Angel of Montgomery” and “Sugaree”) turned the Burbridge vibes up during late-in-the-set takes on “Midnight in Harlem” and “Bound For Glory,” songs which she usually can’t get through without tearing up because of the big role Burbridge’s arrangements play in them.
Still, the band mostly looked forward at Al Lang, and invited fans to look long and hard at themselves, too. While there was no direct mention of politics at the gig, it wasn’t hard to hear the undertones of set highlight “Shame” where Tedeschi sings about “the hurt they put on me and you,” and the way “they're murdering the truth.”
Trucks has said that the song is therapeutic to play because of the arrangement’s aggressive nature, and he let some of that hostility fly on a pair of rhythmic, angry solos that sent screams through the hot, heavy air.
And if the crowd — some barefoot in the grass, others with silly, inebriated smiles on their faces — had any aversion to it, they didn’t show it. In fact, they just danced and bounced along as the “Wheels of Soul” rolled on.
“Honestly, most of our crowd is kind of on our side,” Tedeschi told CL in an interview before the show. “It's not like we're on sides anyway — we're all in this together.”