December 31, 1999. We all remember that night: the feeling of impending doom, the feeling that all the clocks would spin out of control, computers would crash, missiles aimed right at our houses would launch, that by 12:05 AM on January 1, 2000 the world would be nothing more than a pile of rubble lit up by incredible explosions of fireworks and accented by the screams of young children. And then, when the clock actually hit 12:06, and we had finished chugging cheap champagne out of plastic flutes, kissing our significant others, hugging our parents, and dancing like idiots to Prince’s “1999”, we remember thinking, “Oh cool. We’re alive.” That night at the Roxy Theatre in Atlanta, Gov’t Mule was playing one of the many concerts to ring in the new millennium.
Ten years later, they have decided to release that show as a three-disc set for their many fans. Aside from celebrating the ten-year anniversary of this show, Mulennium marks the first Mule release in a decade to include all the original members of the band (bassist Allen Woody passed away only a few short months into the new millennium). It is flooded with various guest appearances and an array of never-before-played cover songs that would eventually become part of the band’s regular rotation.
But, the most important matter at hand is, “How does it sound?”
There have been many bands that came before Gov’t Mule that have produced a similar product of the same caliber: The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, the list goes on. Gov’t Mule, led by the unassailable Warren Haynes, simply follows the pack of southern blues/rock. Here, as they always do, Haynes’ guitar and deep-throated voice carry the blues into the early morning hours. He is not only the saving grace of nearly every band he plays with, he commands the stage as if there is no other reason for you to watch. From the moment the show is introduced and Haynes rips into the opening lick of “Bad Little Doggie”, it is clear that this show was in fact a special one for those in attendance.
Disc one, as disc ones go, is standard and solid. It is well played, though not much stands out until the end. Only six songs into the first set, the midnight countdown leads into the King Crimson cover “21st Century Schizoid Man”, which segues into the tail end of the Who’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and finally a ten-minute version of Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused”. At this point, it’s about 12:30 AM on January 1, 2000, and people had already accepted their status as “alive in the new millennium”. As the band rested for a quick setbreak, the beer and bathroom lines were probably overflowing in the Roxy.
With disc two begins the second set of the evening. And this is when the action began that night. Blues guitar legend Little Milton joined the band for five of the first six songs, all of which sat heavily in the traditional blues category. Haynes and Milton traded guitar solos and licks throughout their time on stage together, which included such classics as “I Can’t Quit You Baby” and “It Hurts Me Too”. This is easily the most impressive section of the three discs.
When Milton leaves the stage, it is only the beginning of the guest appearances for the night. Black Crowes’ guitarist Audley Freed then joins the band for the rest of the set and, along with a few other friends (Skynyrd bass player Robert Kearns, Blueground Undergrass’ Johnny Mosier and Mark Van Allen, and Barry Richman), tears through the rest of the night, with an assembly of classic cover songs and Mule originals.
The crowd continues to cheer for the last minute and 47 seconds of the final disc on a track appropriately titled “Crowd” and then fades into the sounds of chairs being folded, just as that night our worries were quietly folded away and slowly forgotten.
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// Notes from the Road
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