Gov't Mule - Tramshed, Cardiff
The announcement of rare UK dates by Gov't Mule (10) earlier this year was made even more appetising by the fact that one of the two dates was in Cardiff. A packed Tramshed witnessed an evening of superb musicianship as Warren Haynes and the band made their Welsh debut.
For those unfamiliar with Mule, the band play what is best described as Southern rock jams and was formed as a side project by Allman Brothers band members Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody, who passed away in 2000. Their line up has been stable for many years with drummer Matt Abts, keyboardist/guitar/trombonist Danny Louis and bassist Jorgan Carlsson. With The Allman Brothers history, much of the Mule's music echoes the sound of that legendary band and throughout the evening there was much off piste action with virtuoso displays from all band members.
With 11 albums to their name, Mule have a veritable feast of music to choose from. They are legendary for mixing and swapping set lists and, so it proved at The Tramshed, with a range of material from their back catalogue intertwined with tracks from this year's excellent Revolution Come, Revolution Go and covers including The Allman Brothers and a crushing One Of These Days by Pink Floyd to open set 2. I must admit that I'm not familiar enough with their music to identify their older material and in the live arena my hearing is often insufficient to pick up on variations and covers.
That didn't detract in any way as Mule often extended songs for several minutes with superb duelling guitar and keyboards, soloing from Haynes of the highest quality. In fact, with each member of the band astonishingly accomplished musicians, it was an absolute joy, such as the Highway Star tease during Mr Man. Jorgan Carlsson's epic bass lines ably matched by Abts' tactical drumming. Danny Louis, sporting a natty striped beany hat was astounding, his backing vocals adding deftly to Haynes' rich soulful voice, his keyboards integral to the Mule sound and we also had the treat of some trombone work and a couple of tracks where he added beef with neat guitar work.
Mule mix their Southern rock with soul, funk and blues to great effect and whilst there was little movement on stage it was not needed. For most of the evening the sheer quality of their sound captivated most of the crowd, although as inevitably happens these days, the quieter moments during some of the lengthy jams meant that some present lost interest and started talking. Regardless of the poor gig etiquette, the main section of the packed crowd revelled in the epic set, soaking up every note.
A first set of 80 odd minutes was quite magnificent and after a short interval we were treated, and I mean treated, to another extensive set which culminated in a two-song encore which featured Bernie Marsden (yes, him again! The man can't stay away from Wales after his earlier performances this year at Steelhouse). Suffice to say that the Welsh crowd, who love a bit of Bernie, were ecstatic and roared their approval as Mule kicked out the Michael Price/Dan Walsh 1974 classic Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City, made famous in rock circles by Whitesnake. An Allman Brothers classic, Blue Sky, finished the set with Marsden and Haynes delivering delicious guitar harmonies. A magical end to a breathtaking gig. Mule's first visit to the Welsh capital will hopefully not be their last.