Drive-By Truckers Live at The Northcote Theatre 31 March 2024

Mike Cooley Live at Bluesfest 2024. Photo by Steve Ford.

Review by Andy Corr. Photos by Steve Ford.

Easter is always a feast for Rhythms and Blues fans as the spirit of Bluesfest sideshows fills up venues up and down the east coast of Australia.  None of these shows were more welcome than the Drive-By Truckers whose single Melbourne and Sydney shows were only possible thanks to their weekend appearances at Byron Bay.  It has been a long wait for fans as the ‘truckers’ previous visit to our shores was 15 years ago in support of the Booker T collaboration Potato Hole.

The full house sign was up at the Northcote Theatre as Melbourne’s Double Agents warmed the crowd up nicely with a lively set before the Truckers launched into their career spanning performance.

Patterson Hood Live at Bluesfest 2024. Photo by Steve Ford.

The band have had many iterations over their 30 years (perhaps most famously as the launching pad for Jason Isbell), the core staples have been the singer songwriting duo of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley.   Reinforced by the driving rhythm section of Mike Patton on bass and Brad Morgan on drums, the band is well served by multi-instrumentalist Jay Gonzales who seamlessly shifts between keyboard and the Drive-By Truckers trademark third guitar. As they had done at Bluesfest, Hood and Cooley strictly rotate the front man duties during the sprawling two hour set.

The tone was set with the opening deep cut “Life in the Factory” from 2001’s Southern Rock Opera confirming that this was not going to be an evening centred around more recent releases.  The opener was one of eight songs from their double epic album, with the band recently announcing a US tour to showcase its 25th anniversary.

Mike Cooley Live at Bluesfest 2024. Photo by Steve Bell.

A highlight of the set was a five-song detour into the much-loved Decoration Day and the band reached as far back as 1998 for a rousing version of Hood’s tribute to his mother’s elopement on “18 Wheels of Love” as well as several songs from their most recent release 2023’s Welcome 2 Club XIII.

Eschewing the encore, once the show had stretched over the two-hour mark, we farewelled the self-proclaimed ‘Dimmer Twins’ as Hood and Cooley jointly acknowledged the audience before each band member gave their own farewell leaving Gonzales to close the set on his piano with the final notes of “Angels and Fuselage”.

We will hold Patterson Hood to his promise of a return visit (Southern Rock Opera Anniversary tour anyone?), let’s all hope that Bluesfest continues for another 35 years to provide us all with the annual wave of musical Easter tidings.

Full setlist:

  1. Life in the Factory
  2. Surrender Under Protest
  3. Sink Hole
  4. Uncle Frank
  5. Goode’s Field Road
  6. Where the Devil Don’t Stay
  7. Tornadoes
  8. Women Without Whiskey
  9. 18 Wheels of Love
  10. Maria’s Awful Disclosures
  11. The Driver
  12. Every Single Storied Flameout
  13. Dead, Drunk, and Naked
  14. Guitar Man Upstairs
  15. (Something’s Got to) Give Pretty Soon
  16. Sounds Better in the Song
  17. Heathens
  18. Marry Me
  19. Hell No, I Ain’t Happy
  20. Shit Shots Count
  21. Let There Be Rock
  22. Shut Up and Get on the Plane
  23. Angels and Fuselage