Southern rock heavyweights Gov’t Mule and Blackberry Smoke hit Meadow Brook Amphitheatre on the first leg of their 2016 Smokin’ Mule tour.

19-Aug-2016: Blackberry Smoke hit the stage first, and the crowd erupted in applause. Charlie Starr (vocals/guitar), Richard Turner (bass/vocals), Brit Turner (drums), Paul Jackson (guitar/vocals), and Brandon Still (keyboard) are magical on stage together. They band eschews fancy showmanship and gimmicks, preferring to let their music, and it speaks for itself. The audience grooved to their solos and jam sessions, and the band added new twists to their material making their live show a unique experience every time.

Having been busy working on their soon-to-be-released album, Like an Arrow, Blackberry Smoke isn’t showing any signs of stopping. The band will embark on their Like an Arrow across the US following their tour with Gov’t Mule.

On stage, the guys in Blackberry Smoke know how to have fun. Halfway through the set, one of the speakers on stage started to smoke. As the road crew rushed the speaker off stage, Starr called out, “That was my favorite one!”

Fans in the venue easily felt the infectious, high-energy vibe and party atmosphere.The crowd danced in their seats as bounced beach balls through the venue. And everyone had a smile on their face.

Blackberry Smoke treated all to a wide array of guitars in their arsenal, Starr switching out axes after every few songs. They shelled out favorites like the punchy “Payback’s a Bitch,” and the groovy “Shakin’ Hands With The Holy Ghost.” They followed up with their staple “Pretty Little Lie,” the blues-ridden “One Horse Town,” and “Ain’t Got the Blues.”

The crowd was chanting for more when they hit their encore; fan favorite “Ain’t Much Left Of Me.” Halfway through the song, they began to jam, throwing a cover of Bob Marley’s, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” into the mix, to everyone’s joy and surprise.

Their newest album, Like an Arrow, drops on October 14, but is available for pre-order on their website.

As the crowd cheered, Gov’t Mule took the stage. Striding into their spots — Warren Haynes on guitar/vocals, Matt Abts on drums, Danny Louis on keyboard/backing vocals, and Jorgen Carlsson on bass — they jumped right into “World Boss” and “Streamline Woman,” and so began a night of grooving rock and southern blues.

No two Gov’t Mule shows are the same. Their songs tend to flow from the ending of one into the start of another. Thus following a setlist is challenging as the show becomes one long party soundtrack.

They brought many original songs like “Lay Your Burden Down,” “Scared to Live,” and “Birth of the Mule,” along with many covers such as The Beatles’ “And Your Bird Can Sing,” The Allman Brothers Band’s “Soulshine,” and “Kind of Bird.” Mule kept the crowd enchanted as they cheered and sang along with their favorites. The band’s sound reflects a fusion of genres, specifically rock, blues, and jazz. The result is a high-energy, vibrant evening of seamlessly blended tunes.

Founded in 1994, Gov’t Mule hit 2016 with an extensive tour and the release of the new archival album, The Tel-Star Sessions. It is the band’s first, never-before-released demo made in June 1994 at Tel-Star Studios in Bradenton, Florida, featuring the original line-up.

Mule shines during the jam sessions. Their passion and energy seem to drip off their instruments as the venue dances and celebrates with the free flowing music. The band jammed through medleys of well-known songs, such as The Beatles’ “She Said She Said/Tomorrow Never Knows,” and a Creedence Clearwater Revival and Johnny Cash jam of “Effigy/Folsom Prison Blues.” The second set brought “I Think You Know What I Mean” with “When the Levee Breaks” snippet, and “Fallen Down”/”The Other One.” Haynes’ soulful voice was on point as always as he serenaded the crowd and had his dazzling guitar skills on display.

Gov’t Mule is well known for having guests sit in during their set, and tonight was no exception. For the encore, Mule performed a cover of The Band’s “Stage Fright” with Charlie Starr and Brandon Still of Blackberry Smoke. For the finale, Mule invited Paul Jackson to join them and his Smoke bandmates for a soulful cover of Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s “Down by the River.”

The crowd drank in every moment and verse as Mule held nothing back. Tonight was a perfect example of why these legendary rock torchbearers are loved today after more than two decades in the business.

Gov’t Mule
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Blackberry Smoke
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Meadow Brook Amphitheatre
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About The Author

Calling Detroit, Michigan home, Sami has been photographing for many years and has been with National Rock Review since near the beginning. She works freelance contributing to National Rock Review as well as being the owner of Sami Lipp Photography. Capturing the excitement of live music and the passion of musicians is something she lives for. She looks forward to expanding her career in music photography.

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