The Old 97’s and Drive-By Truckers are two of the most sure things you will get when you buy a concert ticket. Each band is completely professional on stage and deliver a solid show with the chances of disappointment being on par with winning the Powerball. The Old 97’s have had the same four members for right at 20 years while the Drive-By Truckers trotted out a new lineup on this tour once again leaving in their wake something like 15 former band members.
The first act would be John Henry & The Engine out of St. Louis, Missouri and they would strut their clout as a solid opener for the two heavyweight acts. If you like the Old 97’s and Drive-By Truckers; John Henry is right up your alley. You can hear the influence of Neil Young in some songs while the pop sensibility of Tom Petty shines through on others. One song even found the singer crooning like The Wallflowers’ singer Jacob Dylan on “God Don’t Make Lonely Girls.” They would get the timeslot with the sun shining from the west and easily work up a sweat and win over most of the audience that made it out early to the show.
The Old 97’s would be a bit hurried and have a shortened set so they came out of the gate strong with “Barrier Reef” to get the crowd going. They would quickly burn through a 16 song collection that possessed many of the usual suspects. Lead singer Rhett Miller would display his patent helicopter guitar strumming method during anthems like “Won’t Be Home” while drummer Philip Peeples would show off his best skills during a thunderous version of “Four Leaf Clover.” Murry Hammond would happily slap his bass while singing a delightful surprise addition to the set in “Can’t Get A Line” and Ken Bethea would lead the charge on the Old 97’s custom closing number “Timebomb.”
The abbreviated set would leave a few big songs off that are almost always played like the tender “Question” and the rowdy “Murder (or a Heart Attack).” These negations weren’t as noticeable because of the inclusion of performances of the brilliant “Lonely Holiday” with the great lyrics “I’ve thought so much about suicide; parts of me have already died.” and the sing-along favorite “Every Night Is Friday Night (Without You).” The band would quickly rush off stage like they had to skip town (which I think they actually did) to make time for the Drive-By Truckers to let the night come through.
Old 97’s setlist for The Crossroads in Kansas City, MO 5/25/13:
- Barrier Reef
- Won’t Be Home
- Brown Haired Daughter
- No Baby I
- W. TX Teardrops
- Champagne, Illinois
- Four Leaf Clover
- Let The Whiskey Take The Reins
- Lonely Holiday
- Big Brown Eyes
- Can’t Get A Line
- Every Night Is Friday Night (Without You)
- Rollerskate Skinny
A new bass player would join the Drive-By Truckers, Matt Patton, and surprisingly change the group’s sound. Patton would perch right in middle of the longstanding three members of the Truckers Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and drummer The EZB while multi-instrumentalist Jay Gonzalez would flank the group on the side. The band’s two singers, Hood and Cooley, would alternate songs throughout the entire 21 song setlist.
A mundane reading of “The Man I Shot” would start things off with Hood on vocals and Cooley would run out of the gate with a grungy version of “Gravity’s Gone.” Hood retaliated with a much darker version of his song “Puttin’ People On The Moon” from The Dirty South record that would proved to be one of the evening’s highlights. This is where I first started to notice the effect Patton had on the band. Mike Cooley would have a very good night as he picked some of his best songs for the outdoor show. He would play a raunchy version of “Where The Devil Don’t Stay” a calm, reflective version of “Women Without Whiskey” and get the crowd bouncing with “Self Destructive Zones” and “Get Downtown.”
Patterson Hood would have a little more of a “deep cut” approach with the songs he sang it would seem. He tackled “Heathens” and “Ronnie and Neil” to surprise the crowd while “Goodes Field Road” was a particularly funky version which almost seemed like a bit of a psych song thanks to Mike Cooley’s guitar experimentation. Hood would belt out a couple Warren Zevon covers with “Play It All Night Long” and fitting in a bit of “Ain’t That Pretty At All” in the middle of it; complete with the lyrical alteration: “…and Zevon’s got cancer just like everybody else…” as a tribute to the late, great singer-songwriter. A very jammy take on “Hell No I Ain’t Happy” would lead into the encore, with the song jamming on for what had to be close to 10 minutes. The light man for the Crossraods would consistently blind the crowd with the stage-lights during the song causing me, and I’m sure others, to want to see if both my hands could fit around their neck.
The encore would feature Cooley’s “Zip City” and “3 Dimes Down” and a Hood led cover of Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen.” Hood would also do a little storytelling during the Truckers ultimate anthem “Let There Be Rock” doing plenty of 70’s bands namedropping including some newer additions like The Clash and The Replacements.
The Old 97’s trotted out the same four members that have played every show over the last 20 years while the Truckers had a new lineup every bit as effective. The Drive-By Truckers will never recover from the loss of guitarist Jason Isbell but the songwriting of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley still make them one of the better rock bands you can currently see. The Old 97’s didn’t lack any in matching the Trucker’s energy either; the same group of guys still put on the same great, energetic show they have done every night I have been in attendance. It was great to see two headlining bands share the same ticket price on such a nice night at the Crossroads.
Drive-By Truckers setlist for The Crossroads in Kansas City, MO 5/25/13:
- The Man I Shot
- Gravity’s Gone
- Puttin’ People On The Moon
- Space City
- Where The Devil Don’t Stay
- Play It All Night Long > Ain’t That Pretty At All (Warren Zevon covers)
- Uncle Frank
- Ghost To Most
- Goode’s Field Road
- Women Without Whiskey
- Ronnie and Neil
- Get Downtown
- Drag The Lake Charlie
- Self Destructive Zones
- Hell No, I Ain’t Happy
- 3 Dimes Down
- Let There Be Rock
- Zip City
- I’m Eighteen (Alice Cooper cover)