Drive-By Truckers at ABC, 11/5/14

The somewhat innocuous sound of Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean echoes over the ABC audience, as beanie-wearing hipsters, grizzled old rockers and chirpy American ex-pats pile in to witness Georgia rockers Drive-By Truckers play one of their biggest UK shows to date.

After several years absence, recent album English Oceans has proved a roaring success so it is no surprise that the setlist features a solid four or five new songs, alongside a host of older favourites from across their previous nine albums.

 

Flying the flag for literate American rock, the five-piece spin yarns that both celebrate, and simultaneously critique their southern heritage.

Blessed with a pair of individually talented songwriters in the form of frontmen Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood, their tales of hard-up losers, overweight truckers and desperate lovers manage to bring out the desperation of the characters that people their songs while still managing to make you sympathise.

The fallout from one of the Truckers’ periodic reshuffles sees Hood and Cooley joined by a third guitarist as well as a new bassist and drummer to deliver a two hour set that moves from strutting Stones-esque boogie to crunching Skynyrd-inspired hard-rock.

Though they deliver fantastic renditions of tracks like ‘Zip City’ from 2001’s masterpiece Southern Rock Opera, the most impressive element of tonight’s set is how the different personalities in the group express themselves when they start to solo (something they do frequently and impressively).

The garrulous, bear-like Hood is all smiles and bouncing licks, while the aquiline and imperious Cooley draws jagged hisses and pops from his guitar but the interplay between the two is peerless; each subtly shading the others songs with new sounds without ever threatening to overpower the other.

Little played rocker ‘Girls Who Smoke’ plays out as an ode to Glasgow, while the funny, catchy ’18 Wheels of Love’ is dedicated by Hood to his wife and mother.

Ending their main set with the gang vocals of ‘Hell No, I Ain’t Happy’ the quintet depart, only to eventually return for another four tracks including Truckers standard ‘Let There Be Rock’ and a grandiose closing version of ‘Grand Canyon’

Tonight’s show proves that DBT are one of the most underrated rock bands in the world and shows why Glasgow was so excited to have them back.

Words: Max Sefton

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