Drive-By Truckers in Vicar Street, Dublin, on Tuesday 28th February 2017
“You can say you walked out on the first two songs of the greatest band you’ve never seen” Chris Slusarenko advises, and for a minute there it seems as if this earlier-than-usual support slot is going to be played to around a dozen people, but Portland quintet Eyelids soon claw respectable numbers in from the bar once a cracker of an opening song has kicked into gear. “So, shit like that” is his summation of what is to come over the next forty-five minutes, this early start gifting us an extended set from the band.
Forget About Tomorrow (“the motto of a good weekday rock show“) could have fallen straight off the back of ‘Bandwagonesque’, and Slow It Goes too, for that matter. One sparkling intro recalls Here Comes The Sun, elsewhere The Jayhawks flicker briefly through the mind, while Don’t Please Come Around Here is a bit darker, more of a minor chord trip. They finally cut loose and make some real noise on Say It’s Alright, guitar pedals and chopping distortion to the fore, a psyched-up end to a great fucking set. West Coast power pop and Flying Nun fans look no further – if you like your guitars jangly, your harmonies high, and your bands to remind you of Big Star by association, then Eyelids are for you.
Last year’s ‘American Band’ marked Drive-By Truckers’ eleventh album, overtly political and with a heavy focus on gun violence. As weighty as the themes are, this Vicar Street visit is less about the message and more about the occasion – as Mike Cooley duly notes, “we’ve got quite a few songs about drinking tonight.” Gathered tight onstage as Ever South kicks things off, it is the ensuing Surrender Under Protest that will typify the high points of the set – those guitar-heavy trade-offs between Cooley, Patterson Hood and multi-instrumentalist Jay Gonzalez.
Why Henry Drinks might slow things down, but it’s no less heavy on the chord crunches with Hood and Gonzalez throwing themselves towards one another. The rest of band seem to recede into the darkness for The Living Bubba from their debut album, a track about the late guitarist Gregory Dean and a song that’s clearly of great import to Hood. This is very much his performance – that is until Cooley steps from the shadows for a guitar solo. A fine Steve McQueen later in the night is homage of a different hue (“Thank you Dublin, we never do that song!“).
Goode’s Field Road takes things down a funk blues path, but it’s in the more raucous territory that the set remains at its best. You know something is about to be that bit more special whenever Gonzalez stands up from his keyboard and straps on that beautiful SG, and Puttin’ People On The Moon builds to a grandiose climax, all about layering up the considerable noise of the three guitars.
Almost inevitably, the night ends with Neil Young, and Eyelids’ Chris Slusarenko and Jonathan Drews re-emerge to add some more guitars to Rockin’ In The Free World. Everyone onstage seems to be having a ball playing it – above all else, above the drinking and the politics, this gig is a loud and lengthy celebration of guitars and music. During Let There Be Rock Hood talks of “listening to Thin Lizzy’s ‘Live and Dangerous’ in 1979”, taking us on a biographical tour through song. His regretful yet ultimately triumphant boast says it all. “I’ve never seen Thin Lizzy. I’ve never seen The Clash…but I’ve seen The Replacements seven times!” Lucky bastard.