Photos by Susan J Weiand
Govt Mule fans got quite the Halloween treat this year at the fabulous Fox Theater in Oakland, California. The theater was originally built in 1928 in the midst of the Art Deco period and was completely refurbished and reopened in 2009. The new theater has kept true to its original style and now it’s a beautiful showcase, with great sight lines and a wonderful sound. It’s a premier place to see show in the San Francisco bay area.
And “Mule-o-ween” is always a special night. The band has been keeping a tradition of covering a particular artist each year. Last year, it was the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In 2011, Warren Haynes Band (Mule was on hiatus) did a James Brown set. In 2010 Govt Mule covered the Who’s “ Who’s Next “ in it’s entirety and in 2009 they played tribute to the Rolling Stones.
After playing a hard rockin’ set of their own material, Govt Mule’s second set saw the appearance of original Doors guitarist Robby Krieger for a tribute to that seminal 60’s band. Warren Haynes delivering heartfelt vocals while channeling his best Jim Morrison, and accompanied by Robby’s signature guitar flourishes, along with the superb playing of Danny Louis handling the iconic keyboard parts made famous by the late Ray Manzarek really brought the Doors sound to life. The bottom end was held down by bassist Jorgen Carlsson and Matt Abts on drums kept the beat rolling.
The show opened with Mule’s namesake explosive tune, “Mule”. It could be felt as well as heard with the heavy-handed baseline. It was a just a glimpse into the magic that was awaiting us.
After the opener, the band settled into mostly material from the new album, “Shout”. The new songs were a little predictable, and at times the bass was overpowering. Anything said on stage was muffled and unintelligible. “No Need to Suffer” inserted a little classic Mule into the set.
The Lizard King was released in full force in the second set of this show. I knew of the Doors set, but somehow I had missed that Robby Krieger would be on stage! It was a feast for the senses. Each vignette was a psychedelic journey to the days when Jim was still with us and times were turbulent. The projection light show was a perfect complement to the music, with swirling colors and patterns and the occasional go-go girl.
Warren Haynes added a ragtime sound to “People are Strange”, and soon he was invoking Jim Morrison through all the songs that the Doors made immortal. Krieger introduced “Wild Child” as a song Jim wrote about his girlfriend Pamela and it provided a mystic Native American experience of sight and sound.
Krieger’s “Light My Fire” was quite the crowd pleaser. Long and drawn out with Robby’s seminal solo, it set the tone for the rest of the set which included Door’s classics like the poppy “Love Me Two Times”, a frightening and dark “The End”, the moody “Riders on the Storm”, and then Mojo rising with “L.A.Woman”, accompanied by a visual celebration of all things 60’s.
Not even the encore was without surprises. Local guitar hero Mark Karan joined the party with his help on “Roadhouse Blues” and this was followed by a second encore of “When the Music’s Over”. These were a little looser than the other songs in the second set, but the band still owned them.
As I exited the theater, the crowd was all a buzz with the amazing journey we had all experienced. As someone who never did see the Doors back in their heyday, I thought tonight was a fitting tribute to their legacy. It was a night that no one who experienced it will soon forget.