Susan Tedeschi Band
November 17, 2006
words/photos by Candise Kola
Fall is the time of year in Seattle where music seems to pass through town in a heated rush, so seeing Susan Tedeschi booked on the tail end of the season was a nice surprise. I had never had the chance to experience her show with her own band, although I am no stranger to seeing her on Allman Brother-related stages. I’m familiar with her new CD, Hope and Desire, due to fairly heavy rotation of some tracks on my favorite Internet radio station, so I knew I would be in for a fantastic vocal display when I went to check out the show.
One of the things that I love to observe at any concert is the crowd – who are the fans, and how does the band relate to them? I also love to observe the interesting things fans will do in response to the joy they feel at shows. The fans at this show were a standard mix of bikers, blue- collar couples, and many small groups of commercial radio-supporting females (Local radio station posters were hung abundantly on the walls of the club and Susan also did a little radio promo on stage) with a handful of middle aged hippie chicks thrown in for good measure. I noticed that many of the ladies love to sing along with Susan’s soulful style while some others simply chat away about how gorgeous and musically brilliant “her husband is.” Susan gracefully acknowledges the references to Derek and doesn’t mind boasting to her audience what talent her husband does have and is genuine in her delivery of the sentiment that his playing is “magic.”
The males at this event were busy doing the usual beer swilling and hooting at the high energy points of the show, slow dancing with their dates, or desperately trying to meet one of the females-a-plenty in the crowd. It has been a long time since I have seen so many women present at a show! Susan and band members are very comfortable interacting with the fan base and were very chatty with anyone who came up to the stage to make a comment or get something signed. All things observed, this group made for a right friendly party.
The show started off with the Sly Stone cover “You Can Make It,” hinting that we were going to be in for some funky fun from the get go, but the next few tunes were taken down a notch and mellowed the crowd into more soulful state of mind. The Ray Charles cover song “Tired of my Tears” came early in the set, and I sensed that it had been in heavy rotation this Fall by the way it sounded – a bit “tired.”
This concert was one of the last of her Fall tour, and knowing that position in the schedule can make or break a show. I hoped that thoughts of family and one's own bed would no be in the minds of the band members. Despite the easy-going start to the show, as it progressed there seemed to be higher and higher levels of enthusiasm. Susan had it all under control and knew just how to serve up what she’s got cookin’ in the right portions. It’s plain to see she wanted to be there, wanted to share her gift of voice with her fans but perhaps by neccesity preferred to pace her vocals to save the blast for last.
The end of the show was where she pulled out the songs I had been waiting to hear. Her cover of The Rolling Stones' “You got the Silver” was sung with honest release. The evening ended with her arrangement of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice.” It was impressive to see how she could remember the verses, even though her fans were distracting her with shenanigans during the slower moments between verses. I noted she is really required to concentrate more than most perhaps, because if she doesn’t, it seems like her fans will take the opportunity to distract her with conversation! No harm was meant of course, and Susan was great at rolling along with whatever her audience threw her way. She’s clearly not there to chit chat, but she makes her fans feel like everyone there is having a nice little visit.
All of that great singing and kind interaction aside, what was really fun to see for me at this show was Susan’s guitar playing. I have to say that I had no real experiences watching her play guitar before this show, but have always held the strong opinion that if ever a woman desired to learn how to earnestly play the guitar, certainly, Susan would be in some the best possible hands that the planet has to offer. It is because of that fact that I want to try and avoid comparing her playing abilities with her colleagues. I know she knows what an incredible musical journey she is on because her showmanship makes it very palpable.
I was both delighted and captivated to watch her take the spotlight and bend a few strings! Her guitar playing sounded fantastic. The solos were very confident, however, short in length. Quality verses quantity came to my mind but it was obvious that the woman was on the right track. If improving her staying power is indeed what she wants to do, it clearly won’t be long before we see her keeping up with the guitar gods that surround her.
Susan’s leadership skills were also apparent; she is comfortable and competent in that role. Much to my joy this evening's line up included Todd Smallie on bass and Ron Holloway on saxophone. Susan’s jam delegation and sense of timing were spot on, and all band members followed her cues. Everyone on stage was enjoying the show, and it was clear by the smiles on their faces. There were no slackers in that band or that room – everyone was there to contribute to the jams and take the energy on to another level.