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Gov’t Mule Shines Bright for Dark Side of The Mule Tour at Pine Knob


Gov’t Mule performs at Pine Knob Amphitheatre © John Swider

Clarkston,Michigan(August 2,2023)-After the storms cleared from earlier in the day, a star filled summer sky became the perfect elixir for Gov’t Mule to be playing its limited performance run of their renown Dark Side of the Mule Tour at the Pine Knob Music Theatre. Fronted by the former Allman Brothers guitar great Warren Haynes along with bassist Allen Woody who formed Gov’t Mule in 1994 as a side project, the “Mule,” as they’re affectionately known by their fans, have emerged as a quintessential southern rock and blues jam band, playing festivals across the globe. With twelve studio albums and just as many live albums to their credit, Gov’t Mule is best experienced live since their setlist changes with each and every performance, continually mixing cuts, both deep and current to create an evening of freewheeling, southern biased rock.

As the “Mule” worked its way through a curated selection of Pink Floyd cuts, including a majority of the iconic “The Dark Side of the Moon” album to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its release, a full moon glistened in the night sky above the amphitheater, an unexpected surreal backdrop, enhanced the moody, extensive laser-lit presentation on stage. The Mule has been doing the Pink Floyd tribute since 2008 and on this special evening it seemed like the cosmos was showing its approval. As the night unfolded, the crowd was treated to a meticulous performance that paid homage to Pink Floyd’s classic masterpiece while also breathing new life into the majestic tracks. Haynes’ guitar virtuosity was on full display, transporting listeners to new dimensions with his soulful solos and expressive playing. His ability to channel the spirit of David Gilmour while infusing his own unique style was nothing short of remarkable.

Gov’t Mule, meanwhile, does have a fresh album out, “Peace…Like a River,” so between the blasts from the past singer-guitarist Warren Haynes and company took about 50 minutes to play six of their own cuts including “Peace I Need” and “After the Storm,” from their latest release. The extended play through set the tone for what was to come, letting the quartet, Haynes in particular, stretch their legs and demonstrate its ample instrumental chops and sharp instincts as they expanded most of the material, starting with a 13-minute rendition of the opening “Game Face.”

Haynes also made clear that while Gov’t Mule, which ironically played a previous Dark Side show at the venue back in 2018, would treat the forthcoming Pink Floyd repertoire with reverence, it would not shy away from adding its own flavors to those pieces.

Gov’t Mule performs at Pine Knob Amphitheatre © John Swider

The”Dark Side” set was augmented by four additional musical artists, two backing vocalists, a saxophonist and a second guitarist/keyboard player. With the additional band members in place, Gov’t Mule began its Dark Side foray with a “true to the original” performance of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V),” with Haynes and keyboardist Danny Louis carefully recreating the ambient instrumental section into the vocal portion of the song. After a scintillating “Have a Cigar,” sung by drummer Matt Abts, the group segued into “The Dark Side of the Moon,” highlighted by an extended take on “Money” and the chilling vocal accompaniment to “The Great Gig in the Sky.”

The Mule let it all out during the last “Dark Side”cut, stretching out on the mostly instrumental “Any Colour You Like.” It followed with fiery takes of two more instrumentals, “One of These Days” and “Echoes,” that sandwiched a deep dive into the 1971 single “Fearless,” between them. The encore returned to more familiar but will ably delivered fare, including the majestic “Comfortably Numb” and a out of this world take on the legendary “Wish You Were Here,” that left a indelible mark on the fans along with a new appreciation for the virtuosity of Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule.

Gov’t Mule performs at Pine Knob Amphitheatre © John Swider

With the nostalgia of Gov’t Mules performance of Pink Floyd classics being the purveyor of the evening, it was only appropriate to carry on that feeling with another legendary tribute as a special guest show opener Jason Bonham, son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, started off the evening  with his Jason Bonhams Led Zeppelin Evening. Banging out an hour of classic Led Zeppelin favorites sung by Michigan native James Dylan, highlighted the classics “Good Times, Bad Times,” “Ramble On,” “Thank You,” “Black Dog,” “Whole Lotta Love” and “Rock and Roll.”  The age diverse fans were on their feet from the first guitar lick and seemed to appreciate the performance of a slew of the most beloved hits from the iconic British rock troup. The trip down memory lane was well received by the growing crowd even if a dodgy sound mix pushed Bonham’s  drumming to the fore front at the expense of his bandmates.

In a world where musical performances often rely on flashy visuals and elaborate production, Government Mule’s concert stood as a testament to the power of pure talent. Their uncanny ability to channel the spirit of Pink Floyd while infusing their own artistry resulted in a night that will surely be remembered as a defining moment in Pine Knob’s musical laurels. Unfortuneatly for those who missed Wednesday nights performance, Warren Haynes previously has said the Gov’t Mule will be returning its focus to its own material after this summer tour winds down. Those at Pine Knob Wednesday could consider themselves fortunate to have made one more visit to the Dark Side of the Mule, albeit under a most glorious moonlit summer sky.

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