Nothing and no one has ever captured the power and the feeling of live music, of being in the moment. I've bought more than 100 live albums and not a single one of them -- even the great ones -- come within a galaxy of recreating that unique feeling of bliss. The raw power and unfettered joy of that moment is like the high I imagine so-called adrenaline junkies feel and it's something music lovers chase no matter how many times they feel it or how jaded we get when we don't.
I caught that feeling one more time Sunday night at Nashville's Mercy Lounge when Vintage Trouble took the stage and commanded it for two powerful hours. Renewable energy is no longer political jargon, it's what happens when Ty Taylor, Nalle Colt, Rick Barrio Dill, and Richard Danielson join forces to bring to life their own soulful "Sly & The Family Stone meets Southern rock" style.
They play music like it's the only thing that matters with energy and passion many have attempted, some have mimicked, but few have harnessed. Not only do they bring it to the stage, the inject it in their audience and that is where the renewal happens and transformation begins.
"High Times Are Coming" and the song that introduced most of us to this quartet, "Blues Hand Me Down" opened the show, the latter having been seen millions of times on YouTube when they performed it on Late Show With David Letterman. That moment may be responsible for introducing them to the world than anything else they've done; it's what won me over so it's no small thing when I say the rendition in Nashville buried that now legendary television appearance. Danielson tapped the toms, Taylor -- already soaked in sweat -- flung five 360° spins and the fires of the night were lit.
Bringing their show from huge arenas where they've opened for The Who to an intimate club on Cannery Row was no challenge for Taylor because he refused to be limited by the size of the stage. Or the venue. He evoked James Brown, Elvis Presley, a young Percy Sledge, and Rev. Al Green as he whirled, shook, juked, and jived, racing into the crowd and hopping atop the bar. There was no such thing as a front-row seat as Taylor played to the entire room, urging fans to join in singing, clapping, and dancing.
It's damn near impossible for an audience to take their eyes off him and it seems his own bandmates fall under that spell, smiling as they watch to see where he goes next. He is irrepressible, a shaman, superbly supported by three talented musicians and the feeling of chemistry between them is almost as powerful as the one they create with their audience.
Taylor leads and feeds off them and they return the favor to him and one another. Colt is a versatile guitar player capable of bruising riffs, ringing chords, and stinging leads that might remind listeners of another famous hat-wearing, Les Paul-playing lead guitarist. He also brought shades of Jimmy Page and Dickey Betts -- two more Les Paul aficionados -- into his mix. Dill's bass work can be thick enough to be like a rhythm guitar yet nimble enough for the R&B side of their sound. Danielson may have the easiest, hardest, and most fun job of the bunch- pounding out the rhythm for and following the feet of Taylor.
The set drew heavily from their acclaimed debut, The Bomb Shelter Sessions, and a few songs likely slated for their sophomore album were also mixed into the set ("Before The Tear Drops" is a future classic, kids). These songs -- so good on record -- became something more because no producer or computer can capture what happens when the spirit of music is awakened. Everything was done with intensity, whether it was a love song ("Nancy Lee"), song for lovin' ("Jezzebella, "Pelvis Pusher," "Total Strangers"), or a hymn for the soul ("Nobody Told Me," "Not All Right With Me"). It was a communion of singer and song, musician and music, movement and moment.
It's not easy to believe in miracles. We're wizened and inured by our times and our struggles. Believing in anything requires a strength bordering on the delusional. I battle the inertia of lethargy and laziness to get myself out of the house every day, feeling a lot like Morgan Freeman's voice sounds in the movie Seven, and not even the pursuit of something I love makes that easier. I tell myself there's no magic left, that it's not worth the hassle, and though I've seen a few gigs that could have been the final nail in this coffin, I still have hope. We spend our lives searching for something to make us feel alive in a world of turmoil and indifference. Moments like that are difficult to come by and often fleeting. They can't be bottled or contained so they have to be remembered, savored, and cherished. I could have taken some great pictures of the show with my camera phone the way so many in the audience did but my phone remained in my pocket, my hands in the air, and I don't for one moment regret it because I'll never forget it.
I realize it's easy to dismiss this as hyperbolic fanboy gushing, but I was there and you weren't so you're going to have to trust me when I say this review doesn't do justice to what this band, those songs, and last night did for me. Renewable energy? You bet your ass.