Friday, January 04, 2008

12-31-07 Gov’t Mule – The Beacon Theater

After having been spoiled by Phish for several years, I developed an unrelenting desire to have an epic experience on New Year’s Eve. Naturally, these epic experiences have almost always revolved around music, or as the case was on 12-31-01, a home Eagles playoff victory followed by a train ride to New York to see Project Object playing Joe’s Garage at the Lion’s Den. Thanks to a girlfriend who did not see eye-to-eye with me on this subject, I had a two year drought of no NYE concerts, but that changed last year when I emancipated myself through Gov’t Mule, who put on a huge show. I knew that tonight’s show was dubbed “Winter of Mule,” which meant that they’d be doing an entire set of 1967 covers. Uh, yeah. That certainly would qualify as epic in my book.

The first set was solid with the AC/DC-like strains of “Mr. High & Mighty” really pumping up the crowd. Later, Warren played “I’ll Be the One,” and he went on a gut-wrenching, emotional solo. It was a song that I’d seen him play solo acoustic, but it became much more majestic with the backing of a full band. Warren was really in a cocky mood, which was a great thing. Of course, it’s not as if the guy ever lacks confidence, but on this night he was oozing with it and blowing everyone away with his ferocious playing and singing.

Photo courtesy of

Anticipation was high for set two, and we all knew what would be coming, but no one knew exactly which gems would be covered. The house lights came down around 10:30 or so, and a lengthy speech from Martin Luther King, Jr. played alongside video footage and stills. At first, the drunken crowd was not really into it, but when Dr. Knig began making statements about opposing the war in Vietnam, it touched a nerve and people howled in approval. However, this speech seemed to go on for a very long time. I will admit that my perception of time was probably a bit skewed, but I still felt that while these were profound remarks, it was time to get on with the show. Then I wondered what would happen if they played King’s speech for an hour-and-a-half until midnight. That would have been a hilarious and bizarre way to torture the crowd.

Photo courtesy of

A WCOS DJ booth was on stage, and the guy inside served as an emcee of sorts, introducing each number while photos and swirling Petri dish images were displayed on the backdrop. “Dear Mr. Fantasy” was the opener, and I was slightly disappointed because I had heard Warren play this many times before. Of course, it was still cool, but I was hoping for a lot of rarities, and this was a bad sign. The Rolling Stones’ “2000 Light Years From Home” was the next offering, and I have to admit that I was initially unimpressed. I kept thinking, “This doesn’t sound trippy like the Stones’ song at all. It just sounds like a generic hard rock Mule number.” “Sunshine of Your Love” was an obvious but damn fine choice, and “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” was exactly what I wanted to hear at that moment. We had a couple of nice Hendrix tunes, and then Vanilla Fudge’s “You Keep me Hanging On” was a great wild surprise.

Photo courtesy of

I knew there would be at least one Grateful Dead tune from the first album, and I kept banking on “Cream Puff War,” which was not played. I don’t know why I never envisioned “Morning Dew” because this was absolutely perfect. (On a nitpicky sidenote, I was a little ticked when the screen was showing images of the Dead, Jerry in particular, that were not from ’67. I would have liked to have seen them be a little more authentic here because there were plenty of classic "Captain Trips" 1967 images to choose from.) It was during “Morning Dew” when the set really began to liftoff, and “When The Music’s Over” slingshot me into another dimension. This song was everything I envisioned this night would be: a wild, intense, sprawling psychedelic jam that pushed everyone to the verge of insanity. The unquestionable highlight of the night, it caused me to flashback to my high school obsession with The Doors, having watched Oliver Stone’s movie as a freshman and then realizing for the first time that it was okay, nee essential, to question authority.

Photo courtesy of

People needed to catch their breath after that massive fire breathing monster departed, and an Ed Sullivan impersonator came out to introduce to two most controversial songs played on his show, which anyone who is up-to-date on their 1960s pop culture history knows are “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and “Light My Fire.” The latter was more like the single version than the gigantic album side, but it was still cool because Warren can apparent do a very respectable Jim Morrison. Then we took a shift toward the soulful sounds of the south. James Brown’s “Cold Sweat” and Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made To Love Her” were both awesome funky jams featuring guest Steve Elson’s soulful sax and Warren’s excellent vocals, particularly on the latter tune. I was grooving hard, despite the chaotic scene with drunks falling down and spilling beer all around me.

It was now 11:59, but instead of going into a countdown, the band went into “You Don’t Bring Me Water,” as images of Otis Redding appeared on the screen. I think Mule was late on their countdown last year, but this time around, it really bugged me for some reason, and I, along with everyone else, was frothing in anticipation of the now late midnight celebration. After five or so minutes, the band wound down the song, and Warren did a very leisurely countdown. We weren’t even close at this point, so I guess there was no reason to worry. He took a sip of champagne, as balloons and confetti fell from the rafters. This quickly became an odd and chaotic scene because people on the left were gently tapping the balloons in the air and having fun, while people on my side (the right) were sadistically popping and destroying the balloons as quickly as possible. These people were crazy-- stomping, crushing, burning, and stabbing balloons vindictively. While the left looked like the hippie playland of the Human Be-In, the right sounded like the horrors of the Tet Offensive. It was a little intense and at times, a tad frightening.

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band” was fun, and then it went into a joyous “All You Need is Love.” At this point, the mad balloon poppers stopped foaming at the mouth and decided to sing along. Everyone was really into this genuinely beautiful and positive moment.

Here's a nice video recap of most of this set by LazyLightning66:

Everyone at setbreak was concluding that whatever followed in set three would have to be a letdown. A “You Don’t Miss Your Water” reprise was an odd opener, but I guess they were determined to play it all the way through. Then the WCOS DJ talked about those who had passed away in 1967, including John Coltrane. This initiated a big spacey jam on “Expression” that immediately eliminated the word “letdown” from everyone’s vocabulary. The Temptations’ “I’m Losing You” followed in the soulful, grooving footsteps of the funk tunes from the second set, and the dance party was reinvigorated once again. The heavy and roaring “Don’t Step On The Grass Sam” that came toward the end of the set was punctuated by crew members running out on stage with giant cue cards for an audience sing-along. This nasty number also made me recall that Summer Sessions show I saw way back in ’99, as this was the song that first enabled me to *get* Gov’t Mule.

After the moving “Sad and Deep as You” encore, the lights came up on a Beacon Theater that looked as if it had been demolished. The place was covered in busted balloons, confetti, assorted garbage, empty bottles, and mysterious fluids. It was here that I wondered why I wore nice shoes to this show. Oh, well. I had no time to worry about that as it was 2:30AM, and my night was just beginning.

I went over to Curtis’ row in search of anyone who wanted to “make way for the Rebirth.” Chris and Ashley were game, and we ventured out into the night for the next part of our journey.

12.31.07 Beacon Theatre - New York, NY

Set One
Brand New Angel
Mr. High & Mighty
Lay Your Burden Down
About To Rage
Banks of The Deep End
I'll Be The One
Time To Confess

Set Two - The Winter Of Love
Martin Luther King, Jr. Speech
Dear Mr. Fantasy
2,000 Light Years From Home
Sunshine Of Your Love
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
WCOS Break
Little Wing
Spanish Castle Magic
You Keep Me Hanging On
Morning Dew
When The Music's Over
Ed Sullivan's Really Good Show
Lets Spend The Night Together
Light My Fire
WCOS Break
Cold Sweat*
I Was Made To Love Her*
Born Under A Bad Sign*
You Don't Miss Your Water*
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Reprise>
All You Need Is Love

Set Three
You Don't Miss Your Water Reprise
WCOS Condolences
I'm Losing You*
Reblow Your Horn
Don't Step On The Grass Sam
Two Thousand Ate Jam
Blind Man In The Dark

Sad And Deep As You

* w/ Steve Elson on Sax


elis blues said...

Thanks for posting a detailed account of the show, I really wish I could have been there!!!
One of my buddies, whom I turned on to the Mule, flew over 12 hours from Israel to the USA in order to be at the NYE show - his first Mule live show, and it really blew his mind in a major way!!!
I'm listening to the Muletracks recordings now, but I can't come close to comprehending the great feeling that it must have been at the Beacon last Monday night. Happy New Year.

Brian Ferdman said...

My pleasure. It really was a killer show, and I'm sure your friend thought it was worth a 12 hour flight.