Drive-By Truckers - Anson Rooms, Bristol

On the back of a politically charged new album, and a week of controversy surrounding US Attorney General Jeff Sessions (or “Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III” as Patterson Hood uses his full name), who is also Alabama’s senator, it seems a good time for Drive-By Truckers to return and unleash their brand of rock on the UK.

The slightly atmosphere free environment of the Anson Rooms in Bristol’s University Student Union is a strange place to see the collection of long haired and bearded men that are the current iteration of DBT. The average age of the audience veering from teenage student to middle aged rocker and beyond only lent to the slightly abstract nature of the show. They may also have contributed to the length of time it took for lead Truckers Hood and Mike Cooley to really get going.

Despite being front loaded with some of their new, and deeply confrontational, songs, lifted from 2016’s American Band the first half of the set is a little flat; from some comments floating around there seems to be a little of the “too many new album tracks” syndrome happening. It’s a huge shame as American Band is really special, though the selection of nearly half the setlist from it includes the less immediate ‘Kinky Hypocrite’ and ‘Filthy and Fried’ alongside the stronger ‘Surrender Under Protest’, ‘Ever South’ and ‘What It Means’. In 2017 these songs, touching on racial prejudices and genuine protest, are needed as much as ever.

The band, and crowd, really start to let rip when old favourites like ‘Zip City’, the epic ‘Let There Be Rock’ and set closer (and t-shirt slogan) ‘Hell No, I Ain’t Happy’ are hammered out. It’s at these points that the band show their qualities and the rhythm that they have with each other. The lack of a pre-prepared setlist only adds to the impressive nature of their show. No two setlist have been even remotely similar on this UK tour.

When all’s said and told though, Drive-By Truckers are a band that live and die by the lyrical content of their songs, be it the story telling way of ‘Let There Be Rock’ with its tales of Hood’s youthful misadventures, or Cooley’s lambasting of the real life title character on ‘Ramon Casiano’. The standout song of the night is ‘Ever South’, perfectly stage with Hood front and centre, leading a sparse verse with the words calling out before the band play the chorus loud. And really that’s the Truckers at their best, loud, rocking, and heartfelt.

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