Gov’t Mule Featuring John Scofield

The Riviera Theatre / Chicago, IL

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Photos by Mandy Pichler

With the venue’s heater broken on yet another glacially cold evening, the Riv was showing all of its 98 years of age. However, Gov’t Mule–celebrating its 20th anniversary--and their 64-year-old tour partner, John Scofield showed absolutely no signs of age. From the moment Mule founder and frontman Warren Haynes stepped onto the stage along with his scarved and wool-hatted bandmates, the temperature in the venue began to soar.

The band opened with five Mule songs, deftly intertwining “Birdland” and “Mountain Jam” teases into “Game Face.” Clearly, Haynes was in it to win it from the get-go as he wove his guitar seamlessly throughout the tapestry of songs. Though nobody was wondering how this show could possibly get any better, along comes jazz guitar giant Scofield and, from that moment on, the Riv was on fire.

“Good Morning Little School Girl,” Sco-Mule’s first collaboration of the night, may be an odd choice on paper. A jazz wizard and a rock ‘n’ roll band playing Muddy Waters’ classic blues standard? You betcha. Every note resonated with an earnestness and vibrancy, and  it was clearly the perfect song for Sco Mule.

Like most Mule shows, it was predictable in its unpredictability. Throughout the night, a mosaic of originals, covers and jams were expertly executed. Just what those originals and covers will be on any given night is what has fans seeing Mule repeatedly. On this night, there was the Grateful Dead’s “The Other One Jam,” “Funny Little Tragedy” with “Message In A Bottle” lyrics (Really? Yes, really.), and Scofield’s “Boogie Stupid” (a “first-time” played).

The first Sco-Mule collaboration was in 1999, a two-night run in Atlanta. After the Sco-Mule show at the Riv, one wonders why it took so long for the reunion, as this show, like those in ’99, was simply legendary.

– Mandy Pichler

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