I'm not sure what it is about Red Rocks Amphitheater that makes it so special. Maybe it's the altitude, at 6200 ft. Maybe it's the amazing rock structures that enclose the venue. Maybe it's even the spirits of the great musicians that have graced the stage. Maybe the music they've made there over the decades is still resonating in the surrounding boulders. Whatever it is, this place IS special. From the moment I entered Red Rocks Park, where the famous amphitheater resides, I felt connected to something that was much bigger and enduring than this individual show and my presence there.
I spent the afternoon walking around the park, taking pictures and getting a feel for the area. I thought I was in an MC Escher drawing since there only seemed to be one direction, up. Most of my time between shooting pictures of the beautiful vistas was spent huffing and puffing. I guess the combination of my poor physical condition and the high altitude was taking it's toll. I kept telling myself it was worth it, just to be there. After a nice time enjoying nature, it was time for music.
The first band to take the stage was called Truth and Salvage Co. I arrived well into their set, so I only saw a couple tunes. Can't really say too much about them. Next up were the Avett Brothers. From the moment they took the stage, it was pure energy. The way these guys move on stage, strum their instruments and sing, it's like a combination of Dave Matthews, Elvis Presley and Joe Cocker rolled into five guys. The guitar techs were moving even faster than the band members, replacing the broken strings on the banjos and guitars. I had never seen these guys before, and the buzz I'd heard was always positive, especially from other musicians. I can see why. Their excitement is infectious and the growing crowd came down with an acute case of dancing. They even got to play an encore, which is not common for the supporting act. The Avetts wrapped up just as twilight was falling. Things were moving along nicely, and everyone was sufficiently pumped up for the Mule.
Gov't Mule came out at about 8:15, and Warren was sporting a 12 string Les Paul. He opened up with a rocked out version of Railroad Boy, the traditional Celtic folk song. After that, Warren switched to his Les Paul 6 string, and they played Gameface. Warren even threw in a little Allman Bros Mountain Jam tease. This was followed by one of my favorite Warren tunes, Patchwork Quilt, which is about Jerry Garcia. The lyrics, "We were at Jones Beach when we got the word. Saddest sound that I ever heard" reminded me of that day in August 1995 when I heard about Jerry's passing. It was one of those points of time in your life that separates the before and the after. Next was Child of the Earth, another song with thoughtful and poignant lyrics. After that came Frozen Fear, which morphed into Zeppelin's D'yer Mak'er, then back into Frozen Fear. This was followed by Kind of Bird and I'd Rather Go Blind. Another one of my favorite Mule tunes followed, Soulshine, and about halfway through I looked up in the Colorado night sky and saw a shooting star. I think it was God putting an exclamation point on the evening. The first set was closed out with Brokedown on the Brazos, which was a foreshadowing of the Rock and Roll to come in the second set.
The second set opened up after a 30 minute break, and Warren said, "Welcome to the Rock 'n' Roll portion of the show." He wasn't kidding. Armed with his white Gibson Firebird, the first tune was Steppin' Lightly, which was followed by Inside Outside Woman Blues. The band progressed through About to Rage, with the Electric Funeral Jam. Warren switched axes to a cherry woodgrain Gibson Firebird. Then, he introduced Eric Krasno, and they played Sco-Mule. Krasno is an amazing guitarist, and his jazzy-bluesy style complimented Warren and Danny Louis on keys. They went back and forth, sort of a three-man musical duel. The ended the song with a little bit of Dance to the Music, the old Sly & the Family Stone song. Warren, Danny, Eric Krasno and Jorgen Carlsson (bass) left Matt Abts alone for a drum solo. The band reappeared on stage, and they jammed into Endless Parade, then closed the second set with Blind Man in the Dark. Definitely, the Rock 'n' Roll portion of the show.
The encores were all cover tunes. First up was 21st Century Schizoid Man, the King Crimson tune, made famous by Ozzy. Next was The Who's, See Me, Feel Me. They finished up the show with Led Zeppelin's, Dazed and Confused.
Sorry for no pictures of Gov't Mule. They didn't let professional cameras into the venue.
Set 1: Railroad Boy > Gameface, Patchwork Quilt, Child of the Earth, Frozen Fear > D'yer Mak'er > Frozen Fear, Kind Of Bird, I'd Rather Go Blind., Soulshine, Broke Down On The Brazos
Set 2: Steppin' Lightly, Inside Outside Woman Blues, About To Rage > Electric Funeral Jam > About To Rage, Sco-Mule w/ Eric Krasno > Drums > Jam > Endless Parade, Blind Man In The Dark
E: 21st Century Schizoid Man, See Me, Feel Me > Dazed & Confused