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Being a blues-rock band in 2006 is no easy trick. Falling into the pitfalls of
convenience is too tempting for most, turning many bands into a second-class
retread of Cream or Blue Cheer.

But if Warren Haynes, Gov't Mule's heart, soul and grit, is anything, he's not lazy.
The true hardest-working man in show business, Haynes probably spends about
300 days on the road every year, touring with his Mule, the Allman Brothers Band,
solo gigs, and making appearances with Phil Lesh, the sometimes reconstituted
the Dead, and whoever else might need a gruff-voiced singer with lead guitar
chops to match.

The Mule, despite having Haynes as their rock, sound nothing like the Allmans.
Haynes' sweet slide interplay and rising harmonies are scarcely found in the
Mule's repertoire, replaced with a biting, overdriven tone that recalls the best of
Hendrix and Clapton in his Cream phase, but with a hint of the harder stuff — I'm
talking Black Sabbath here — thrown in for good measure. It's a complete 180
from his other work, but its with Gov't Mule where Haynes truly shines.

And, at Lupo's in Providence, the driving rhythms and tough-but-intricate interplay
that sets the band apart from so many others were on display for the Mule faithful.

Kicking off with "Brand New Angel," the set built up momentum steadily until
"Rocking Horse." From there, the energy never dipped again. There was a definite
sense of fun and edge during "Don't Step on the Grass Sam," complete with a
roadie coming out with lyrics on posterboards for the crowd. Even on slower
numbers like "Beautifully Broken," the intense vibes never lessened, with
drummer Matt Abts and bass guitarist Andy Hess keeping the rhythm rock solid.

While we're on it, Matt Abts may easily be the most underrated drummer in rock
today. Drum solos are, usually without fail, boring. Some might call them
pretentious or tedious, but they can usually all fall back on the same page —
boring. Abts' drum solo in the second set was nothing short of thrilling. His
pounding of the double-bass pedal coupled with his alternating between stick
styles and, finally, his bare hands kept the sound from just falling into "a guy hits
his tom-toms quickly." There was a sense of rhythm and composition along with
spontaneity that made the whole effort outstanding.

Coming out of the drum solo were a trifecta that encapsulated the band perfectly.
"Bad Man Walking," "Bad Little Doggie" and "Blind Man in the Dark" have long
been some of the best blooze-rock songs written in the past few years, and to
hear all three slamming against each other really wowed everyone in sight. Even
the most dedicated Mule fans, who have likely heard all three countless times,
were reveling in the moment.

As one diehard told me, “this is the best way to see the Mule. Middle of the week,
general admission crowd, it doesn’t get better than this.”

It's likely very true. In this sense, there’s no pretense to be had. This show was not
a trendy spot on a Saturday night, the band doesn’t really have a TV following, and,
most importantly, the four guys on stage weren’t just there to collect a check. This
was a rock show in one of its purest forms, with a road-tested band firing off
blistering riffs and leads underscored by a thunderous rhythm section and a more-
than-eager audience.

So really, it's hard to come up with many better ways to spend a Tuesday night.
Even if it does mean a rough Wednesday morning, the regret will be
overshadowed by the shake, rattle and roll that Gov't Mule provides on a nightly
Gov't Mule gets down to business in Providence
Lupo's at the Strand
Providence, R.I.
Nov. 28, 2006

First set:
Brand New Angel
Streamline Woman
About to Rage
Rocking Horse
Banks of the Deep End
I Ain't Superstitious
Child of the Earth
Don't Step on the Grass Sam
Thorazine Shuffle
Second set:
When Doves Cry >
Beautifully Broken >
When Doves Cry >
Beautifully Broken
Brighter Days
Like Flies >
Drums >
Bad Man Walking
Bad Little Doggie
Blind Man in the Dark
Wine and Blood
E-mail Nick Tavares at
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Gov't Mule rips through their set at Lupo's.
Live Gov't Mule recordings are available
for download at