Band: Alabama Shakes with very special guest Drive-By Truckers
Date: Saturday, Aug. 22 at 8 p.m.
Venue: The Amphitheater at The Wharf, 4673 Wharf Parkway, Orange Beach, www.amphitheateratthewharf.com
Tickets: $39.50-$50, available through Ticketmaster and at venue box office
Alabama Shakes have already made a lasting impression in modern music. This band helped pioneer a neo-soul movement that’s still going strong. Their sound has influenced a number of up-and-coming bands and no doubt will continue to influence future generations of performers. Before their breakout, “Hold On,” propelled them onto the national scene, Alabama Shakes was a relatively obscure band from the small town of Athens, Alabama. Fortunately another, more established band from North Alabama — Drive-By Truckers — were so taken with Alabama Shakes’ sound that they took a special interest in them and were instrumental in introducing the world to their retro sounds. Now this Alabama rock outfit is opening for the band it once helped publicize. According to front man Patterson Hood, Drive-By Truckers are always excited to share a stage with Alabama Shakes.
“We’re always honored to share a bill with Alabama Shakes, regardless of who opens or closes,” Hood said. “They’re an amazing band and deserve every bit of success they’ve had. We’re at the top of our game right now also, so it should make for a great evening of rock for everyone involved and a lot of bang for buck for the fans. We’re all very excited.”
Not only is Drive-By Truckers excited to be on tour with Alabama Shakes, they’re also excited their long-anticipated album, “It’s Great to Be Alive,” is due to drop Friday, Oct. 30. The band’s last live album was “Alabama Ass Whuppin’,” which Hood sees as a document of where the band was musically in 1999. Similarly, “It’s Great to Be Alive” should provide live evidence of the band’s evolution through the years.
“We’ve made eight studio albums and played nearly 2,000 shows since then,” Hood explained. “[Drive-By Truckers] is a very different thing now. The band has never been better, and this documents songs from every era and record we’ve made.”
When it comes to rock history’s greatest live albums, many legendary venues come to mind, but one name tends to dominate. In the ‘60s, The Fillmore in San Francisco was the epicenter of the West Coast psychedelic rock movement. Bands such as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and the Jimi Hendrix Experience were regular performances on The Fillmore stage. Musical acts such as Aretha Franklin, Cypress Hill, Grateful Dead and Santana loved this room so much that they documented performances through live albums. Drive-By Truckers felt the same way about this historic theater.
“It was our first choice, and then we found out we were going to be doing a three-night stand, and it became a no-brainer,” Hood said. “We’ve always done really well in San Francisco and always had amazing shows at The Fillmore.”
A live recording captures everything that happens on stage. Some bands have the philosophy of taking the stage as they normally do. Other bands extensively prepare to capture a moment in their history. Hood said Drive-By Truckers did a little of both. He said the band uses no setlist and didn’t want to change this, even for this live album. However, the band also wanted to make sure the Fillmore setlists were extensive enough to cover all the material they wanted to include on the album. With this in mind, the band decided to use their 2014 fall tour as practice for the Fillmore sets that would become “It’s Great to Be Alive.” This practice allowed the band to lay a basic foundation for their setlists while maintaining the organic nature of their live performance. Hood likens this practice to “how an actor or athlete prepares for an event, but when the time comes you just let go and trust your instincts and preparation but live in the actual moment.”
After their triple-shot at The Fillmore, Drive-By Truckers took the next step in creating “It’s Great to Be Alive.” The shows resulted in 50 tracks the band found suitable for its live album and chose 35 to include on the release. Throughout the selection process, Hood says the band tried to organize the track list in a way that would maintain the natural “flow” of its live show. The band’s primary goal was to compile a live album with the feel of an “ultimate Drive-By Truckers show,” Hood said.
“Our albums end up being a little bit on the more serious side,” Hood said. “Our songs are often somewhat dark but our live show is always a lot of fun. This really documents that side of things. It also has some of the stories and interaction that occurs in the live show.”
When this collection of live tracks is released, the public will have several options. First, “It’s Great to Be Alive” will be available in vinyl, digital and CD formats. Second, the public will have three versions from which to choose; “It’s Great to Be Alive” will be released in a deluxe CD version, which will include 35 tracks as well as liner notes by Hood. The deluxe vinyl/CD box set will feature five LPs, two CDs, four Wes Freed mini-posters and a 16-page LP-size booklet with Hood’s liner notes. For those just wanting a sample of the weekend, “The Weekend’s the Night: Highlights from It’s Great to Be Alive” is a 13-track, best-of album.
This live album marks a period in the Drive-By Truckers’ history that Hood fondly calls the band’s “salad days,” marked by positive artistic and emotional vibes. According to Hood, the band is experiencing a lot of positive creativity and fans should be pleased with the eventual outcomes.
“We’re all healthy and never played better,” Hood said. “We’re writing a ton of songs for the next album, which we plan to record next year. I got a feeling it’s going to be a special one.”