1805 Geary Boulevard in San Francisco, better known as The Fillmore, first opened in 1912. A part of rock and roll history, the venue is the perfect place for The Wood Brothers‘ new album Live at The Fillmore via Honey Jar/Thirty Tigers.
For the most part, I am not a fan of live albums. I am often unsatisfied. The Wood Brothers took on the responsibility of capturing an authentic musical experience from a room where Hendrix, Joplin, and Muddy Waters left their vibe in the air–a daunting task. Yet the way these fourteen genre-defying tracks sound, maybe there were some angels at the soundboard.
What makes this a must-have live album? There is something pure here in songs like “Chocolate On My Tongue” that feels like being there. Honest and real, like life can’t be better than this moment. With a simple guitar and a reverent audience, being part of this transformative moment brings a tear to my eyes, reminding me there are a million reasons to live. That feeling is why I love live music, period. “Sparkling Wine” shines, catching the ghost of Jerry Garcia in the room. I’m no Deadhead, but this cut is alive with something otherworldly. Bassist Chris Woods shines here.
The other thing that makes a good live album? Well, The Wood Brothers have never been better. Out of fourteen songs, some definite stars stand out. Cris Wood’s fuzzed-up bass licks in “Snake Eyes” drive the tempo, wrapped in Oliver Wood’s excellent guitar runs. A masterclass in ramping up the tempo, each chorus roars with gang vocals into a crash. “Keep Me Around” pulls in a feel-good stroll and displays stunning songwriting. Pure and simple, the pacing is sweet. (Shout-out to drummer/keyboardist Jano Rix on sitar!) In contrast, “Raindrop” oozes with imagery and metaphor over a dirty bass grind.
There is a new sadness to “River Takes The Town” in the aftermath of Dorian’s devastation. Always poignant, this now takes on a whole new meaning. The Wood Brothers brilliantly follow up with the snarky strut “Glad,” whose fuzzed-out guitars seem to ooze sarcasm. Further rejoicing in the gift of breath, this celebration fits with a roar of the crowd. Rix performing both drums and keyboards makes a new cacophony, translating his work from the studio onto the stage. Pleasingly, this album is fourteen tracks rich with musicality, not filled with incessant jams. The Wood Brothers are having fun sharing their joy with those of us that couldn’t be there, isn’t that what I am hearing?
“Happiness Jones/Express Yourself” is the one jam, easing on towards the end of the record and the show. Really, the gift of The Wood Brothers Live at The Fillmore adds to rock and roll history as one of my all-time favorite live albums ever. –Lisa Whealy