In years past, the Tedeschi Trucks Band has made its annual Boston pilgrimage an event, hunkering down at the Orpheum for several nights with a different setlist for each, all the better to dig deep into the group’s astonishingly varied and rich vein of soulful blues-rock. Wednesday at TD Garden, the band aimed to condense that sprawling ambition into an event of a different stripe: one night only, at arena scale. Expectations were high — it was branded as a “Garden Party,” one of only two (the other is at Madison Square Garden on Friday) — and if the show felt like merely a sampler of the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s awesome power and reach, it was still hugely satisfying by anybody else’s standards.
Part of the trouble, if it could even be called that, was in the almost stubborn focus on anyone but the Tedeschi Trucks Band. More than half of the songs were covers, from Joe Cocker’s opening “Woman to Woman” (where Derek Trucks, one of the world’s great guitarists, mostly hacked at chords and Susan Tedeschi, a singer of enormous power and depth, didn’t even come onstage until halfway through) to the itchy, polyrhythmic funk of Dr. John’s “I Walk on Guilded Splinters,” which closed things down 2½ hours later.
Meanwhile, when Trucks’s onetime Allman Brothers bandmate Warren Haynes appeared unannounced (no introductions needed; the audience knew) to sing and play guitar on two Allmans songs and on Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” he pulled the center of gravity in his direction, rather than slotting into the context of the band. On the other hand, that just went to show just how wide-ranging and deep the Tedeschi Trucks Band genuinely is, and not just because of how effortlessly they matched Haynes’s vibe. In quick succession, “Circles ‘Round the Sun” had hints of South African mbaqanga, “Just Won’t Burn” was a slow late-night blues, and “Made Up Mind” offered a heady kick as the chords of Trucks’s simple riff flitted in and out.
The charge of just those chords was equal to any leads Trucks could have played. And when Trucks did solo, there was always a clear throughline, and the band always rose as one to meet him, as if to serve notice that there was a framework in place, rather than simply freeform exploration.
Tedeschi was no slouch, either, whether playing a clean, fluttering solo on “Just Won’t Burn” or tearing off unfettered leads on Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “I Pity the Fool.” The Norwell native dug deep into her vocal on that one, as well as matching Bonnie Raitt’s ache and disappointment on a simple piano-backed “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Before transitioning to a crashing “Beck’s Bolero” near the end, she and Trucks traded leads against the frat-rock soul riff and antsy, increasingly fractal drums of “I Want More,” and it was hard not to take the title to heart.
Marc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @spacecitymarc
TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND
With Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. At TD Garden, Wednesday