Saturday night we went a concert by the Tedeschi Trucks Band (TTB). It was excellent and this is partly a review, but mostly a challenge to the community of touring musicians: “Why aren’t your production values as good as TTB’s?”

Just the Facts · TTB lives squarely in the middle of the Southern Rock genre, as invented by the Allman Brothers in 1970 or so. Derek Trucks is the nephew of the Allmans’ original drummer Butch Trucks and performed in a later iteration of that band. Susan Tedeschi had a successful career as a touring and recording blueswoman. Then she and Derek got married and merged their acts.

Tedeschi Trucks Band in concert in Vancouver in 2024

It’s a twelve-piece band: Susan and Derek on guitar, three backup vocalists, three horns, keyboards, bass, and two drummers (one white, one black, per the Southern-Rock canon). The music is blues and soul, wandering into rock. Some of the songs are their own, others genre chestnuts (Statesboro Blues, High Time We Went). They played a three-hour show, but with not that many songs, because every tune features extended instrumental sections. All twelve members got a chance to shine, Derek had a break on every song, and Susan on quite a few.

What was great · Only a couple of the songs weren’t memorable; they write well and cover only the best chestnuts. The musicianship was stellar, with electric guitar front and center. Derek is fluid and effortless, with beautiful tone; Susan solos less but actually plays more interesting stuff. Susan’s the lead voice but four other members are singers, they all got a featured spot and were all pretty great. Susan doesn’t have the vocal range or the shriek, but she had the most soul.

What was best, though — out into “fucking awesome” territory — was what classical musicians call “ensemble” and I guess I’d call “band musicianship”. The songs’ arrangements are just razor-sharp, full of shifts and and breaks and little moments of drama and grace, intros and outros and bridges. The players were effortlessly locked onto the center of the rhythm, “so tight they were loose” as the saying goes. The amount of practicing this takes must be epic.

Which was brilliantly supported by the sound people. Every instrument and voice was distinct and clear, and the dynamic range was maybe the best I’ve ever heard from an electric-guitar-based band. Every moment was multilayered and you could hear all the layers.

You could tell (well, if you know something about concert sound, you could) that, at the soundboard, they were intervening judiciously, for example cranking the horns (or backup singers) and fading the guitars when that’s what the song needed.

It was an audience that was fun to be part of, enthusiastically cheering all the solos and regularly leaping to their feet when a song hit the big up-curve. Especially impressive given that plenty of the crowd was old enough to have been there for the birth of Southern Rock.

On top of which, the lighting was subtle and dramatic and tasteful, and only once in the whole three-hour show did they hurt my brain by obnoxiously flashing brilliant lights in my eyes.

Thus my challenge:

To every touring band: Be like TTB! · Seriously; My time on earth covers most of the history of live electric-music performance, plus I’m an audiophile, and for most of my life, most of the sound has been shitty. But in the last few years I’ve regularly heard sound that was better than acceptable, and occasionally dazzlingly-good. But TTB is the most impressive combination I’ve heard of big ensemble, plenty of electric guitar, and sparkling sound.

There is sort of an excuse: Rock, historically, has been carefully engineered to sound good on car radios; specifically the kind of car radios owned by impecunious youth. Dynamic range and layering are not features of this landscape.

Anyhow, my exposure to TTB, prior to this, has been mostly YouTube, and I’ve enjoyed them, but I dunno, now that I’ve heard the real thing, I suspect the online version will feel thin.

If TTB can do it, any band can. But plenty still don’t. That’s increasingly just not acceptable. I wonder if things will start to get generally better? Because I’m pretty sure the musicians care.

Other observations · Running a 12-piece operation must be freaking expensive. I would love to hear the details of the economics. Saturday night they filled a 2600-seat hall with an average ticket price around C$120. So that’s over C$300K gross. The hall costs C$21K and then there’s Ticketmaster’s cut, which if the claims of the recent DOJ litigation are to be believed, would be egregious.

I wonder how a TTB song gets built? In particular, who does the arrangements? Whoever it is, I’m a fan.

Lauren and I were masked (N95) and looking across the audience as far as we could see revealed one other masked person. I dunno, 2600 people in an enclosed space. Call me crazy, but… no, call them crazy. I’m serious.

Unusually, there were huge line-ups for the men’s washrooms, almost none for the women’s. The lady in the row behind us cackled and said “boomer prostates.”


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: takashi (May 27 2024, at 16:15)

Don't worry. If you join any music-conserts in Japan, you'll see 10% of attendees wearing masks. :-)


From: Tim (but not THE Tim) (May 27 2024, at 18:54)

Another neat thing they do is an annual day of service in honor of Kofi Burbridge, a band member who passed away:

I can't find a contact link anywhere on their official website - so I don't know how you'd get in touch but they seem like the sort of band that would love to talk to you about that stuff


From: Brett g Porter (May 28 2024, at 05:37)

Re: live sound (in general) getting better recently -- you're not imagining it; this SOS article explains how the development of the Line Array is responsible:

What I'm really interested to hear is the new Holoplot system that's being used in the Sphere in Vegas.


From: Keith Soltys (May 31 2024, at 04:23)

There's definitely been an improvement in concert sound over the last couple of decades. The only concerts that I've been to in the last few years that haven't had good sound were at Toronto's Air Canada Centre. I'm hoping Bruce Springsteen in November will break that streak.

Even smaller shows have been good. I was at an outdoor concert by Colin Linden last summer. Only three instruments (guitar, bass drums) but the sound was both loud and spectacularly clean with everything distinctly audible.

It's reached the point where I now expect good sound rather than being pleasantly surprised when it happens.


From: Roland Tanglao (Jun 06 2024, at 08:25)

10% masked at a concert in Vancouver would be incredible. We went to the Cure almost exactly 1 year ago and only saw a handful of people with masks at Rogers! We will be wearing N95s to Images in Vogue, Johnny and James and Paul Weller


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