Photo by David McClister
Band: Wheels of Soul Tour featuring Tedeschi Trucks Band, Los Lobos and Gabe Dixon
Date: Saturday, June 25, at 7 p.m.
Venue: Mobile Civic Center Arena, 402 Civic Center Drive, asmglobalmobile.com
Tickets: $32-$96.50, available through Ticketmaster
After several pandemic cancellations, Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Wheels of Soul Tour is finally returning to the Azalea City. Whether onstage or behind the scenes, this annual tour is more like a family affair between the Tedeschi Trucks Band and its curated support, which will be Los Lobos and Gabe Dixon in Mobile. And, Tedeschi Trucks Band’s audiences should be anticipating a live taste of the band’s most ambitious and impressive release to date.
Decades after Nizami Ganjavi’s poem “Layla and Majnun” inspired Eric Clapton, Tedeschi Trucks Band is giving their own musical analysis of this 12th-century Persian masterpiece. Paired with a cinematic companion, “I Am the Moon” is a four-album concept effort with each album having a separate release. “I. The Crescent” and “II. The Ascension” are available now, with “III. The Fall” and “IV. Farewell” on the way. Shining with cuts of soul, blues, Southern rock and freeform jam, “I. The Crescent” and “II. The Ascension” leave listeners ravenous for the other half of “I Am the Moon,” as well as curious as to what these tracks will sound like in the live environment.
Guitarist Derek Trucks provided Lagniappe’s Steve Centanni with the backstory of this epic sonic endeavor as well as his feelings about getting this tour back on the road.
Steve Centanni: The Wheels of Soul Tour has always been a family affair both onstage and off. Over the years, what has become your favorite thing about getting on the road with this tour, especially considering the pandemic hiatus?
Derek Trucks: You know, it’s being out with other bands and crews that you’ve become friends with. It’s rolling from town to town, and on days off, setting up in the parking lot and having a barbecue. It’s become an incredible hang. This year, coming out of missing the last two years, we just remember how much fun we have with Los Lobos and how they’re incredible people and incredible musicians. They were at the top of our list of people we wanted to tour with.
Centanni: As your children have gotten older, how has going out with mom and dad on the summer tour changed?
Trucks: You know, it went up and down in their teenage years. There’s times when they loved it, and other times when they wanted to be home with their friends. Our son moved out and went to college, and a few weeks ago, our daughter moved out for college. This year has been the first time where it’s just been a totally different calculation. I don’t even know what it’s going to feel like yet.
Centanni: Hearing that, it’s hard for me to believe that it’s been that long since we’ve talked.
Trucks: It’s hard for us to believe that this is where we are too. It sure happens quickly.
Centanni: You’re currently in the midst of one of the band’s biggest undertakings, which is your “I Am the Moon” release that was inspired by “Layla and Majnun.” What is it about this poem that served as inspiration for a multi-album/multimedia release?
Trucks: It was an interesting thing that naturally fell into place. We had done this show at Lockn’[Festival] with Trey Anastasio, where we did the whole “Layla” record. That got Mike Madison, who is a principal songwriter and singer in the band, thinking about the lyrics of the “Layla” album and thinking about the source material for the Persian poem “Layla and Majnun.”
“Layla” is one of the greatest rock albums ever made, but thematically, it was just one part of that poem. It was a guy not being able to have this woman that he wanted. The poem is just thick with the language and the imagery and all the different themes. Mike had this idea of us going back to the source material and really digging into it and thinking about what Layla thought about this madman.
Being the lead of the band, it made good sense. Early in the lockdown, when none of us were together as a band, it was a nice way for us to be digging into the same thing and thinking about the same theme and writing about the same thing without being together. When we finally got everybody in the room together, there were all these ideas and songs. Everybody in the band had different ideas coming from different places, but everybody had a common thread that was naturally weaving through it.
We didn’t have any gigs in sight. There were 20 months without work. So, we kept writing and recording. We never thought of making a record. It was just good to be together again and playing. By the time we took a breath and looked up, we had 24 or 25 songs and hours of material. Then we really started thinking about what we were going to do with it. It really took on a life of its own. It wasn’t preconceived in that way. It was a cool concept that Mike came up with, and everybody jumped in with both feet.
Then we started thinking about how we were going to release it. It was too much to take in at once. The idea of episodes and staggering it while thinking about my favorite records like “Axis: Bold as Love” [Jimi Hendrix] and “A Love Supreme” [John Coltrane], and realizing that they were 32-36 minutes long. There’s something beautiful about a record that’s a complete thought and takes place that way.
We started thinking about it in four parts, and it made a lot of sense. We started thinking about the bell curve of a story arc. There’s the beginning of “The Crescent.” Then there’s the build or action of “The Ascension,” and the conflict of “The Fall.” And the resolution of “Farewell.” That’s how we were thinking about this as we were sequencing it. It just became this big immersive project, and we had nothing but time. It was really enjoyable to dig into.
Centanni: Personally, the music that I’ve heard on “The Crescent” and “The Ascension” might be some of the best material that I’ve heard out of you, Susan Tedeschi or Tedeschi Trucks Band. Before I listened to it and was reading about it, I thought that I would get bored at points, because that happens a lot with me and epic, concept-type albums. But I love it all.
Trucks: Awesome, man! I think that one thing that saved us was that we were not planning on doing an epic concept album until it was done. There was just all this material that we really loved, and we didn’t want to lose any of it. We thought that releasing it all at once would be too much. The further we got into it, the more we loved it. Once Alex Lambert did the film and we watched and approved those things, I really started appreciating the band in a different light.
I felt like this record is the most that we’ve ever pulled out everyone’s personalities. We live with these people and know them, and when we watch the film or listen to the record, I really feel their personalities. When we were making these things, we didn’t know when we would work again. We were just happy to be making music in a weird time. Music was therapy in a way.
Centanni: I’m anxious to hear “Pasaquan” in the live setting. What songs are you looking forward to exploring more in the live setting?
Trucks: I think “Hear My Dear” is going to be a fun one to play. We haven’t played any of these live yet. So, you never really know until you air it out. Certainly, “Pasaquan” the instrumental is going to be fun to play. Really, I’m looking forward to playing everything on the first record.
I don’t know how well the acoustic stuff will translate at an outdoor show. That’s sometimes a little touchy. I feel like all the songs are holding up. There’s tunes later in the other records that I’m looking forward to playing. There’s a tune called “Yes We Will” that I feel Sue is going to rip to shreds.
Centanni: Honestly, I would be happy if y’all played nothing but the new stuff in Mobile, because I feel it’s just going to thrive onstage, but I know you have other fans to consider, besides me. So, what’s the setlist going to be like?
Trucks: The band is showing up down here in the studio in the next few days. We’re just going to rehearse the new stuff and see what feels good. So, it’s undecided. I know everyone is anxious to play the new material. We’ve been sitting on it for a while now. There’s a lot to choose from in the group, so it should be interesting.
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