The Drive-By Truckers have been around for, oh, let's just say awhile. You know at this point what you're getting with their live show — at least with their catalog.
On their current tour, which swung by the Beachland Ballroom last night, the Truckers are pushing their latest album, The Big To-Do, upfront. The first half of the show was loaded with new songs. Opening with "The First Night of My Drinking," the Truckers pumped out about half the new album, including "This Fucking Job," “(It's Gonna Be)/I Told You So," "Get Downtown," "After the Scene Dies," "Sante Fe," "Eyes Like Glue" and "Birthday Boy," The Big To-Do’s best song.
As a relative newcomer to the Trucker caravan, having only seen them a couple times, I don't have much to compare last night's show to, but it felt less loud, less messy and more polished than it should. A friend who has seen them many more times than I asked how the show was, guessing that was exactly how it went and he was right.
Every note was hit, every slinky guitar solo and twangy rhythm sounded exactly as they should. I suppose that's what you go into a show wanting, but it felt less live, more studio.
They still rock, though, don't get me wrong. The Truckers work because, yes, they rock, but also because each little song is a little story of forgotten, forlorn, troubled souls and their tribulations.
"Birthday Boy" might not be the most adventurous song on the new disc, but it's got some of the slickest lines and best stories: "Pretty girls from the smallest towns get remembered like storms and droughts that old men talk about for years to come/I guess that's why they give us names, so a few old men can say they saw us rain when we were young."
And the stories — the reason why the Truckers are the Truckers and not any other band that can throw down some nasty Southern rock — make it all better. When Patterson Hood led into "18 Wheels of Love" with a two-minute tale, or when Hood started another tune with a story about driving Grandpa's Cadillac when he was eight and Grandpa was tanked, or when you listen to songs about strippers and killers and husbands and whiskey and wives, you get sucked in, nodding along, absorbed in the Truckers’ world and their characters’. Even if it is a little less messy, a little less loud and a little more polished than you'd like. —Vince Grzegorek