Reviewed on Monday April 21

I gotta say, we had the best seats in the house. Second row but with no seating in front of us (and no foldbacks obscuring our view), with Warren Haynes’ furious guitarmanship four short metres away and bassist Jorgen Carlsson’s frightening power hair at a safe but respectable distance, there was really no better place for a music reviewer to be. From opening number ‘No Reward’to the finale, ‘Gonna Send You Back To Georgia’, Gov’t Mule were all business, barely pausing for breath the entire night.

The circumstances leading up to the gig were somewhat unfortunate. While the audience was packed with folk well-versed in the Gov’t Mule catalogue, the sheer volume of old Allman Brothers tour shirts on display left no doubt who people had originally come here to see. Unfortunately, headliner Gregg Allman had to pull out from the remainder of his Australian tour dates after an old wrist injury resurfaced, prompting Haynes and co. to step up and carry the gig. The Enmore was offering a partial refund to the audience in recognition – a nice touch.

The performance itself was tremendous, a master class in classic rock musicianship. Though Haynes seemed to be plagued by wah pedal issues and a speaker hiccup that saw two of the roadies discreetly (i.e. not discreetly at all) perform some strange surgery on the back of a stage amplifier, his actual playing is beyond compare. The previous week I had caught Gary Clark, Jr. and although they are both exceptional guitarists in their respective fields, Haynes is easily the stronger performer. And man, can that guy belt out a tune, at times not so much singing as bellowing his lyrics. That the band can still summon such fresh energy – especially when every gig is largely improvisational, full of solos you can get lost in – is really quite remarkable.

Highlights of the night included ‘Soulshine’, ‘If Heartaches Were Nickels’ and ‘Lay Your Burden Down’, though for me (and a large part of the audience, as evidenced by the sudden rush to the front), the peak of the performance came when Devon Allman was invited onstage for a cover of Neil Young’s ‘Southern Man’. A memorable set from a classic band still at the top of its game.

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