The Drive-By Truckers are an act so full of sharp noise and subtle nuance, of heartbreak verses and hallelujah choruses, that playing 150 minutes of sweet and spicy Southern rock should be no problem.
And, in truth, it probably isn't. Of course, the Drive-By Truckers didn't play 2 hours Saturday when they all but kidnapped the stage at the Imperial Theatre. They played for more than three - a remarkable, sometimes slipshod but always entertaining exhibition of rock music played fearlessly.
The Truckers seemed blissfully unaware of the potential pitfalls they all but bulldozed through, fueled by enthusiasm and hits of a whiskey bottle. Would the smart performer punctuate an already lengthy set with rambling narratives about John Wayne, personal ancestry and the transforming power of rock? Probably not. Would the clever performer front-end load its hits, filling most of the set with album obscurities and unreleased material?
Not on a good night.
But to play by the rules is not the Drive-By way. Instead, the band put a little rebellion back into rock and came off looking like a supercharged performing ensemble in full flower, the essence of old school rock performance.
As impressive as Drive-By commitment to performance is, it would all be smoke and mirrors were it not for the band's substantive songwriting chops.
It is the band's ability to shift from loud to lullaby that separates it from the career-in-the-clubs pack. They are the sort of band, like Crazy Horse and the oft-compared Skynyrd before them that write songs that become staples. Mark my words, in 10 years songs like Sink Hole and Let There Be Rock will be as omnipresent in smoke-filled biker bars as Freebird is today.
Trimming the time might have kept some of the audience that fled into the night. Numbers noticeably dwindled as the night wore on. But had the Drive-By Truckers arrived with a slick, safe set list, perfectly sequenced and road-tested, the experience might have been something less. Instead, Augusta got the rare chance to see a courageous, capable ensemble willing to let emotion and energy dictate the direction of a show. And that's rock 'n' roll.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.