Susan Tedeschi – 12 November 2008: New York, Fillmore at Irving Plaza
Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner
I’ve come to terms with the fact that middle-aged, middle-class white people love the blues. Be it festivals, buskers or your straight-up concert, no one else flocks to the sounds of alcohol-soaked despair quite like Jane the Soccer-Mom and Joe the Plumber. So finding the Fillmore packed with coupling chaperones, wildly cheering on Susan Tedeschi was not at all surprising, it was expected.
Tedeschi, herself alluring in a Sparta-like shimmery dress and heels, was at ease, her voice equally dripping with her signature soul and fireworks. Though touring in support of her latest album Back to the River, she was still apologetic about playing so much new material to an audience continually clamoring for old hits. The crowd did, however, quickly open up to the familiar themes and sounds emanating from her latest compositions.
The redemptive “700 Houses”, which she referred to as her “disaster song”, was written in response to Katrina, yet applies to tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes too she quipped. “People”, a communal anthem for civic action and voting that she penned with Sonya Kitchell, was harmonious in both message and her effortless delivery. Awkwardly enough the audience was listless when Tedeschi congratulated them on making the right choice November 4th. Despite being the average audience member’s contemporary, Tedeschi’s glittery peace-sign button on her guitar strap and world views reverberated best with younger concertgoers.
Politics aside, Tedeschi and her five-piece backing band charged through a tenacious “Little by Little”. The ensemble especially came alive when they tip-toed through one verse before thundering into the next, allowing Tedeschi’s gospel-raised vocals to both coax and dominate the crowd. She also showed some serious guitar chops. Doubling lead guitar on the song’s final turnaround with Dave Yoke, Tedeschi borrowed a page from her husband Derek Trucks’ Allman Brothers playbook.
Prominent throughout the night was tenor-saxophonist Ron Holloway, frequently matching the late LeRoi Moore’s pointed and flowing style. Holloway was a key component while the band traded solos, like on jazz-inspired “Love is Black”. Vocally, one could practically feel the velvet drapes as Tedeschi diffused into sultry lounge singer mode.
Already thinking ahead to their dreaded late-night commute home, the crowd was more excited about Tedeschi singing “It Hurt So Bad” to finish her set than any of the four songs she played for an encore. That’s probably because they never stuck around to hear them.