“You know how I know it’s a good show? All the top people from Live Nation are here.” It’s not often that great truths about concertgoing can be overheard in the men’s room, but Tuesday at the Orpheum Theatre, an unnamed attendee uttered one. If the local promoter is overrepresented by substantially more than just the folks tasked with working the show, that’s a fair indication of a can’t-miss act. And as evidenced by the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s four-night run (with additional shows Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday), that fact is hardly a secret.
Without a new studio album to draw from, the set nonetheless reflected more recent developments from the two years since the band last played Boston. The soulful cover of the Beatles’ “I’ve Got a Feeling,” which once sat in the middle of the evening, instead kicked things off, suggesting that Norwell native Susan Tedeschi and Allman scion Derek Trucks spent their holiday weekend engrossed in the “Get Back” documentary like so many others. And while the heartfelt “Angel From Montgomery” was featured on Tedeschi’s 1998 breakthrough album, it was hard not to see it as a nod to the loss of songwriter John Prine to COVID-19.
The recent release of the band’s 2019 performance covering Derek & The Dominos’ “Layla” album in full, meanwhile, yielded versions of “Bell Bottom Blues” and “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?” that oddly downplayed their growling desperation. Trucks’s guitar seemed to be similarly subdued throughout the night, his soloing merely excellent and unimpeachable rather than flat-out jaw-dropping.
But that barely seemed like a problem, not when there was such a strong foundation of drama and structure undergirding even the most protracted songs and solos. There was nothing reliant on just groove and none of the slack wandering that can infect the songs of other instrumentally-focused bands; even the double drum solo by Tyler Greenwell and Isaac Eady during “Idle Wind” had a logic and build to it. When Trucks came out of a wailing solo during the sparkly soul of “Don’t Let Me Slide,” Tedeschi didn’t take the standard beat to invite applause, instead leaping straight into the final chorus to prevent the song from getting earthbound.
And the Tedeschi Trucks Band proved again and again that it wasn’t merely a vehicle for soloing, or even for Tedeschi and Trucks. With Mike Mattison on fiery vocals, the shuddering “Everybody’s Got to Change Somehow” was unswinging, unsyncopated, and an absolute bulldozer of a blues march, while the Harlem-jazzy haunted-house clomp of “Right on Time” swung wide and heavy. And even as Trucks and Tedeschi traded solos on “Whiskey Legs,” the two drums chugged behind them, imperceptibly building up steam.
TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND
At Orpheum Theatre, Tuesday. Continues Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday
Marc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @spacecitymarc.