Join me to see DBT at Packard

I’ve always hated the characterization of critics as bitter cranks who enjoy tearing things down.

Yeah, I’ve met a couple of those over the years, and in the era of social media journalism, spewing hate attracts more clicks than gushing praise.

But most of the people I know who write about music or theater or movies or books are folks who consider themselves fortunate and lucky to have been able to turn one of their passions into a career.

On the clock or off the clock, they’re listening to music, going to shows and / or reading. The only difference is off the clock, they don’t have to write about it, and what they’re consuming isn’t dictated by who’s coming to town or what’s being released that month.

The job requires doing both, but I realized a long time ago I’d rather tell readers about something I love than something I don’t.

That’s why I hope that those who aren’t doing anything tonight go to Packard Music Hall to see Drive-By Truckers.

DBT has been one of my favorite bands since 2001, when I bought the double album “Southern Rock Opera” after reading some of the reviews (thanks, critics).

It was love at first listen. I grew up in southern Ohio, a part of the state that sometimes forgets on what side of the Mason-Dixon Line it sits. As big as Southern rock is here, it was bigger down there when I was growing up in the ’70s.

When Patterson Hood sings about his teenage concert experiences in Alabama on “Let There Be Rock,” it could be my story too (although I have seen Lynyrd Skynyrd — the Ronnie Van Zant-less version — and I’ve still never seen AC / DC).

Both Hood and Mike Cooley are gifted songwriters,drawing on both the personal and the historical and oftentimes weaving them together in a way that creates something truly special.

In the interview with Hood that ran last week, he praised his bandmate of 38 years (between DBT and their earlier band, Adam’s House Cat), saying that Cooley has his favorite song on just about every album the band has made.

Hood is under-selling himself, but there is a kernel of truth. Hood is the far more prolific songwriter of the two, and there are DBT albums where Hood’s songs deliver one body-rattling jab after another and then Cooley turns up every third or fourth song with a knock-out blow.

Some compositions like “Three Great Alabama Icons” are lyrically driven with the vocal out front and the instruments providing an undercurrent that accentuates the mood and message of the words.

Others flat-out rock and often take on a different feel live. A song like “World of Hurt” becomes a cathartic, defiant declaration of life. “Lookout Mountain” and “Let There Be Rock” can transcend the already-great studio versions.

I’ve seen DBT at least a half dozen times over the years. If I’m making a list of my 10 favorite shows of all time, the “Rock and Roll Means Well” tour they did with The Hold Steady in 2008 definitely has a slot on that list.

For those still on the fence, check out one of the band’s live albums online, either “Live from Plan 9” or “It’s Great to Be Alive.”

“Plan 9” was a benefit show in a record store recorded in 2006, when Jason Isbell still was in the band. The band was paid with a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon and two bottles of whiskey and — as Hood writes in the liner notes — not a drop was left by the end of the set.

“It’s Great to Be Alive” was recorded over three nights in San Francisco in 2014 with the same lineup that will be in Warren tonight.

Those recordings make the case why Drive-By Truckers is worth seeing more than anything I could write. See you there.

Andy Gray is the entertainment editor of Ticket. Write to him at agray@tribtoday.com .


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today