Saturday night, the expanse of wood floor at Cain’s Ballroom hosted the people it was built to serve in 1924: Wearers of cowboy boots.
That’s because the South’s best and longest-running songwriting duo Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley had rolled into town with the other four members of Drive-By Truckers (all of whom were also clad in brown leather boots and pearl-snap ranch-hand shirts) and a stable of guitars in tow.
Their live catalogue plunges deep into the mid-1990s with eight studio records, though they’ve made their living and reputation on the road. With three singers (Hood, Cooley and bassist Shonna Tucker for that female touch) and just as many guitars, it wasn’t any surprise that the set was long. The Truckers kicked off at 9:30 and played well past 11:30 with a single interruption for encore.
“After the Scene Dies” set the tone for the night as a loud fist-pumper, one of the eight songs they played from their most recent record, The Big To-Do. Said tone was both loud and driven by soaring guitar play between the talented Cooley, Hood and quality third man John Neff, though they broke the monopoly up nicely by interspersing Tucker’s songs in with tracks from 2008′s omnivorous Brighter Than Creation’s Dark.
Tucker shined early in the set with “(It’s Gonna Be) I Told You So” and later dazzled in front of flashing lights and crashing drums on “Home Field Advantage”, one of the evening’s best. The band’s live chops and tendencies are well-honed; they appeared to be playing without a setlist, simply agreeing on the next song as they finished each one.
One was “The Wig He Made Her Wear”, one of the least subtle and most disturbing songs –it concerns the self-defense murder of a pervert preacher by his wife– in recent memory. Most disturbing though was the crowd’s reaction, which could only be described as extremely supportive, likely because of the song’s addictive swaying guitar rhythms and Hood’s emphatic singing. It was the best-received song of the evening.
After a short break around 11 p.m. they returned to play three Lynyrd Skynyrd homages but that just wasn’t enough. After “A Ghost To Most”, Hood delivered a brief sermon about the value of “persistence, persistence, persistence” which he said resulted in getting to open for Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, the band he and Cooley had named their first band (Breakdown) after more than 25 years ago. It was a testament as powerful and moving as “Let There Be Rock”, the final song in the set.
PRYOR — The fourth-annual Rocklahoma music festival proved that sunscreen and going shirtless are as much a part of the rock ‘n’ roll experience as a band cranking its guitar amps to 11.
And they brought friends.