Final Sundown: Black Cadillacs and Warren Haynes

Black Cadillacs, Sundown in the City, Market Square, Knoxville

I had mixed feelings about the last Sundown in the City. I’m always sad to see it end, knowing I’ll miss it and wondering if this will be the last of a great series. I also had a dinner planned at Tomato Head with friends and all the restaurants are more crowded on Sundown days, though that turned out to be fine. I most looked forward to the Black Cadillacs with their raw rock and roll sound. I’d missed their set at the Dylan Bash and it had been a while since I’d heard a full show by them. As for Warren Haynes, I wasn’t really that excited, but figured I’d give him a chance.

Will Horton and Philip Anderson of the Black Cadillacs

Black Cadillacs, Sundown in the City, Knoxville, June 2011

As fate would have it, I missed most of the Black Cadillacs’ show, seeing only the last two or three songs. The boys really have grown musically. They still don’t look like rock stars – just a little too squeaky clean – and they don’t quite have the rock star nonchalance down, but they know how to rock, and I think that’s a little more important than the other stuff. If these guys can hang together and make it through all the inevitable ups and downs inherent in the business, they could wind up doing themselves and Knoxville proud.

Warren Haynes and Band, Knoxville, June 2011

Warren Haynes, Sundown in the City, Knoxville

The crowd was obviously buzzed for Warren Haynes. As I said earlier, I wasn’t that thrilled. I believe I’ve seen him twice before, which I realize is an odd statement: Have I or haven’t I? Well, I saw the Other Ones on their first tour after Jerry (that’s Garcia, as in the Grateful Dead for those of you not into that scene) died and I think he was one of two guitarists doing Jerry’s parts. I thought at the time if I closed my eyes and listened, I could imagine it was Jerry playing both parts. I also believe I saw him with Phil Lesh and Friends (bass player for the Grateful Dead) when they toured with Bob Dylan.

Warren Haynes, Knoxville, June 2011

I’d never heard Gov’t Mule or a Warren Haynes solo show. I had formed an, as it turned out, unfair stereotype of Warren Haynes as a mindless jammer. I know he’s popular on the Jam Band circuit, so that’s what I expected: a bit of song followed by ten minutes of aimless noodling on the instruments.

Warren Haynes

I should know better. Not all jam bands are created equally. I really enjoyed the Grateful Dead and they could stretch it out interminably for some people’s taste. I enjoy a good jazz jam, though not so much a Phish extravaganza. The jam model that applied the most was the one that was most logical: The Allman Brothers. Logical because he has a long history of work with them. He even sounded like Greg Allman lite at times – and that’s a compliment because I think Greg has one of the all-time best rock and roll voices.

Warren Haynes, Knoxville, June 2011

I enjoyed the night enough that I stayed all the way through and I hadn’t necessarily planned to do that. He is touring in support of his new solo album Man in Motion which was recorded for the Stax label – that bastion of soul that I didn’t know still existed. This fact has shifted his music more in the direction of traditional soul, which probably explains why I enjoyed it so much.
The jams didn’t seem to bend the songs beyond recognition and his playing was tasteful and soulful. I know, I should have know. I’m not sure where all the negativity came from. Along the way the keyboard player did some great work both on the keyboards and vocals. He seemed to have the most charisma of anyone on the stage, which made it a bit unfortunate that he was so anchored behind the organ.

I did not catch the name of the woman singing backing vocals, but I thought she was a nice addition. I felt she could have been used more for harmony vocals to soften his ragged cords. She wasn’t on stage for about half the songs. I believe I caught she is new with the band, so maybe they are working her in slowly. She did sing a portion of Living For The City, the Stevie Wonder classic which, interestingly was also performed by Jonny Lang at the last Sundown.
The crowd was very large, but sort of polite. I stood one person from the front by the end of the show and I didn’t have to be rude to get there – there seemed to be a larger need for personal space among this crowd and a number of them listened for a while then drifted away.

Warren Haynes concludes Sundown in the City

Sometimes I felt that the band had the Allman Brothers’ feel, but without the great songs. Or maybe I just am less familiar with them. The concert ended with the song Soulshine, which was recorded by the Allman Brothers and got some airplay, but which was written by Warren Haynes. It’s an excellent song and served as a great closer.
I’ve enjoyed the shows this season and, though I wasn’t thrilled with the line-up initially, maybe the promoters have found the right level of famous for the space. I hope they feel good about it because I certainly want it to return. Here’s hoping.

In the meantime, here’s a video of Warren performing “River’s Gonna Rise,” so you can see what you think. I think you’ll like it.