The Wilbur Theater is an old performing arts venue in Boston’s theater district. It seats about 1,000 people or so and is one of those places that has stopped showing plays to pretty much focus on music and comedy. Last time I was there, just about two years ago, I wrote about Robin Trower.
I first posted about the Dixie Dregs last year. If you haven’t read it, take a look over there for a brief bio. After the original post, I noted this in a comment, “Just stumbled on this blog post by bassist Andy West (for anyone who is still reading these comments.)
Turns out the band stays in touch and reunited at Steve Morse’s studio in January (2017). No word yet of a reunion tour. But our diligent team over here at ME are tracking this like it’s Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. If we get any word that there is an impending tour, we will do a new blog post.”
As it happens, they did reunite for a tour and I mentioned that in a subsequent post. And so as soon as I heard they were getting together, I jumped online to buy a ticket. And if you think, well, I probably got front row seats because everybody’s forgotten about them, think again. They played two different venues in this general area and I was lucky to get a seat in the mezzanine. The place was sold out.
For all I was into them I had never seen the Dregs. Was it worth the 30+ year wait? The answer, categorically, yes. I have seen so many live shows of every sort I’ve literally lost count. But this show was up there in the top 10 – 12 I’ve ever seen. These guys – and this was the original band – are all virtuosos who are at the top of their game. And it wasn’t all “wonka-wonka-look-at what-a-great-player-I-am.” It was virtuosity in the service of great tunes.
Boston was one of the very first towns they booked and their bass player spoke of their affection for the place and how they’d long ago opened for Muddy Waters at the Paradise Club. He asked how many of us had been there but despite a few “woos,” mostly silence. What was funny is that, on cue, they launched into a heavy blues for a minute, which is something they never play.
What do they play? Well, it’s funny because last time I listed them as a jazz-rock ensemble and yeah that’s definitely there. But interestingly, Wikipedia lists them as “hard rock, country rock, progressive metal, southern rock, progressive rock.” Emphasis on rock, to the extreme!
But enough of my horseshit ramblings, let’s hear a few tunes. (Some thoughtful soul posted the setlist online so I made up a Spotify list at the end of the post. It comprises the entire show minus, alas, a brief violin solo.)
Let’s get into this. Here’s “Assembly Line.” (I found it interesting that they had their lighting guy from 40 years ago. At one point the band traded fours on one song and the dude hit each guy with a spot just as he played his lick, back and forth among them. Awesome.)
What was great about this show over and above the fantastic music was just to some extent sitting with an audience of my peers who grew up on this stuff and have the attention span to sit and listen to it. No, “When are they gonna sing something?” or “Don’t they have any hits?” Just straight up grooving and totally digging it. And the band appreciates that we appreciate it and I daresay that’s happening everywhere they play, Boston is not unique in that.
But wait. Their bio says “country rock” too, yes? Well, they are the Dixie Dregs. This tune, “The Bash,” brought the house down. I am not one to jump up and give standing O’s but that happened several times that night. This clip is from their first show back in February of this year in Clearwater, Florida. The interplay between guitarist Steve Morse and violinist (and doctor) Allen Sloan is insane. Yee-hah!
I have several guitars at home, not a lot like some guys, but a couple. You’ll doubtless be pleased, as I am, to know that after I watched Steve Morse play I came home and did this, then poured chocolate sauce on them and ate them. Damn tasty too.
Last but not least, here’s something that leans towards the Dregs’ prog-rock tendencies. (Minus the lyrics that say shit like, “The dawn of mankind is lost in the twinkling of an eye, the rooster crows to infinity,” or whatever.)
This band gets the Music Enthusiast Seal of Much Musical Happiness and I am telling you that if you dug what you heard and they are coming to your town, this is a show you will not want to miss.