What I’ve Been Listening To: Gov’t Mule/Dark Side Of The Mule

What’s a Pink Floyd fan to do these days when they want to experience the band’s amazing music live? With the death of keyboarder Rick Wright in 2008 and their final studio album The Endless River from November 2014, Floyd’s officially gone. Yes, Roger Waters is currently on an extended Us + Them world tour. And, yes, David Gilmour released Live At Pompeii last September, which included Floyd material, and told Ultimate Classic Rock around that time that he’s planning a new album, which probably also means more touring. Still, it’s not the same!

Well, as the “king of the cover band” (Music Enthusiast’s previous kind words, not mine!) – one option I can highly recommend is Floyd tribute band Echoes. I saw these guys last year at the great Rock The Farm annual festival and wrote about it here. A second option I didn’t fully appreciate until recently is Gov’t Mule – yep, the southern rock jam band founded by Allman Brothers’ members Warren Haynes (guitar) and Allen Woody (bass) in 1994 to keep busy while the Brothers were off. Both ended up leaving the band to fully focus on Mule, though Haynes returned in 2000 and stayed with the Brothers until their final show in 2014. Woody passed away in 2000.

Gov't Mule 2018
Gov’t Mule’s current lineup (left to right): Danny Louis (keyboards), Matt Abts (drums), Jorgen Carlsson (bass) and Warren Haynes (guitar)

Haynes and Woody both were fond of 1960s power trios, such as Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Mule also digs many other artists like Neil Young, Free, Traffic, Little Feat and, well, Pink Floyd. What’s interesting to me is that with so much own material Mule has released over the years, they frequently have covered songs of the aforementioned artists during their sets. To date their homage to Pink Floyd certainly represents the climax in that regard. I know of no other such high caliber musicians who put together an entire set of covers from a band they obviously admire.

Dark Side Of The Mule (love that title!), which was released in December 2014 as a CD and deluxe CD/DVD set, was recorded during a three-hour gig at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston on Halloween 2008. While the standard CD edition only features the Floyd portion of the show, the enhanced deluxe version also includes original material Mule performed that night. Unlike the title suggests, their Pink Floyd set goes far beyond the Dark Side Of The Moon album. Time to get to some music!

The first tune I’d like to highlight is what I would call more of a deep cut: Fearless. Co-written by Gilmour and Waters, it appeared on Pink Floyd’s sixth studio album Meddle, released in October 1971. Haynes does a particularly nice job here, both in terms of his guitar work and the vocals.

Pigs On The Wing, Pt. 2 was written by Waters and included on Animals as the closer of that record from January 1977, Floyd’s 10th studio release. I think Mule’s version of the tune illustrates what’s also true for the entire set – while they stayed pretty close to the original tracks, they didn’t copy them 100%, which I find quite okay. After all, unlike Echoes, Mule is not a Floyd tribute band.

Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V) is one of the tunes where Mule takes a bit more artistic freedom, especially Haynes. While I really dig Gilmour’s guitar parts on the original, I have to say I also like what Haynes is playing here. The opener of Wish You Were Here, Floyd’s ninth studio effort from September 1975, was credited to Gilmour, Wright and Waters. It remains one of my all-time favorite Floyd tracks after having listened to the band for some 40 years.

Next up: Time from the epic Dark Side Of The Moon, my favorite Pink Floyd album, which appeared in March 1973. The song was credited to all members of the band, which apart from Gilmour, Waters and Wright also included drummer Nick Mason. BTW, one of the backing vocalists Mule had, Durga McBroom, also consistently served in that capacity during Floyd’s live shows starting from November 1987, as well as on The Division Bell and The Endless River studio records.

Another track I’d like to call out is Comfortably Numb, one of my favorite tunes from 1979’s The Wall album. Co-written by Waters and Gilmour, it’s one of the relatively few songs that are not solely credited to Waters who clearly was the dominant force on the record. Again, Haynes does a great job, both vocally and playing Gilmour’s guitar parts.

The last song I’d like to highlight is the title track from the Wish You Were Here album.  No Pink Floyd set would be complete without the song, which was yet another Waters-Gilmour co-write.

To date, Mule only played one additional Floyd set, which was during the Mountain Jam music festival in June 2015. But a third Dark Side Of The Mule performance is coming up. In March, the band announced that they are joining forces with The Avett Brothers for six co-headlining summer open air gigs. The dates include Jones Beach Theater, Wantagh, N.Y. (Jul 12); PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, N.J. (Jul 13); Xfinity Center, Mansfield, Mass. (Jul 14); Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center, Noblesville, Ind. (Aug 23); Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, Tinley Park, IL (Aug 24); and DTE Energy Music Theatre, Clarkston, MI (Aug 25).

One of these shows is happening right in my backyard. Based on Ticketmaster, prices look relatively reasonable. Plus, I’ve been to PNC Bank Arts Center many times and like this venue. All of these facts are impossible to ignore, so needless to say that I’m very tempted. Since I’m already seeing Steely Dan & The Doobie Brothers (July 7) and Neil Young solo (July 11), adding Mule would make this a pretty intense back-to-back music experience. But is there such a thing as too much rock & roll, and don’t make three a charm? We’ll see.

Sources: Wikipedia, Roger Waters official website, Ultimate Classic Rock, Echoes official website, Gov’t Mule official website, YouTube


27 thoughts on “What I’ve Been Listening To: Gov’t Mule/Dark Side Of The Mule”

    1. I kind of had heard about it before, but it hadn’t really registered. While it’s not note for note, I think Mule is doing a remarkable job to capture Floyd’s complex music.

      If you think about, it must have taken them a significant amount of rehearsals to get to this point. Considering that I find it remarkable that they have done this show only twice to date (in 2008 and 2015) – which why this upcoming series of performances is kind of cool.

      As you might sense, I’m trying to rationalize buying a ticket!😜


    1. Thanks! Nope, McDonald isn’t part of their lineup any longer, but cofounding members Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons are – which is great, since they are the original vocalists!

      I feel the vocals are oftentimes the most difficult to replace. Based on reviews I’ve read, they are supposed to sound awesome.

      I saw them once before in the late 1990s/early 2000s, and it was a great show. It was also with Johnston and Simmons and without McDonald.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have to say I’m more fond of The Doobies’ early phase, particularly the first six albums. I also like “Cycles” from 1989, especially “The Doctor” and “One Chain.”

        Except for the “Taking It To The Streets” (1976), all of these albums were without McDonald, so I guess the band’s current lineup works well for me.😀

        so I guess their current lineup is working out nicely

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I must confess I only have Minute By Minute- the album when it came out- of course I’ve heard all their hits- they just never grabbed me… Steely Dan I am into- have all their albums.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. The irony is, if you believe the reviews, The Doobies consistently get high marks for great sound and playing a set of their top 40 hits, while feedback on Steely Dan has been mixed.

        Some folks felt Fagen left out gems like “Deacon Blues” and “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” for deeper cuts and had trouble hitting some of the high notes. In some cases the sound was characterized as lacking.

        Ultimately, I guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder and in what spot you are relative to the stage.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Oh well, I’ll post about it, so you’ll know relatively soon. I’ve already lowered my expectations.

        I’m a huge Dan fan but unfortunately have never seen them. I was concerned that if I don’t do it now, I may not get another opportunity – same thing with Neil Young!

        With some of these “aging rockers,” frankly, I’m just not sure how long they can keep it going! Not everybody has the enviable stamina of a Mick Jagger or Buddy Guy!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Low expectations sometimes- and great results- hopefully its a good show–I’ve seen Neil a few times and he’s always been great…. you have a busy week coming up- next week

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Exactly my thinking!😀

        Here‘s the set from Neil‘s solo gig, based on setlist.fm for the first few shows – basically a mix of well known and deep cuts. There seems to be minimal variation.

        On The Way Home
        Love Is A Rose
        Only Love Can Break Your Heart
        Cowgirl In The Sand
        Mellow My Mind
        There’s A World
        Are You Ready For The Country
        After The Gold Rush
        Tonight’s The Night
        Speakin’ Out
        Angry World
        Love And War
        Peaceful Valley Boulevard
        Out On The Weekend
        The Needle And The Damage Done
        Heart Of Gold

        One Of These Days
        War Of Man

        I definitely got some listening to do to familiarize myself with a number of the above songs!

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Based on the titles, I know about half of the songs. I agree that with Cowgirl In The Sand, Ohio, Needle And The Damage Done and Heart Of Gold, there are definitely some gems here.

        I wish he’d also play tunes like Old Man, Harvest Moon, Comes A Time and Sugar Mountain.

        But, hey, at least it doesn’t look like a Dylan show I saw in Germany in the late 80s, where he literally kicked off his set with Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door and then only played obscure tunes!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve dug Mule for a while but totally missed this album. Warren Haynes is a real journeyman, playing with everybody from Allmans to the Dead to, well, you name it. I’ll give these tunes a spin for sure. As to Doobies, I like Michael McDonald but yeah, those other guys to me are the sound of the Doobies. As to obscure tunes, I’m glad I saw U2 a couple years ago when they were running down “Joshua Tree.” They said that they’re done with those tunes for a while and that this tour is for the diehard fan who knows all the deep cuts. I barely knew all their songs last time so I’m glad I didn’t go to this one.

    Sometimes you get lucky. A year or two back I went to Springsteen’s “River” tour expecting to hear that album. I guess he was sick of it by then and leaned heavily on his early stuff which – as a longtime fan – is my favorite stuff. It’s gotta be hard for bands to stay interested in tunes they’ve played a million times vs. fans who have never heard those tunes live. I saw Billy Joel in an interview and he said that sometimes when he plays ‘Piano Man’ he’s thinking about what he might order for room service!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As a longtime Pink Floyd fan, I have to say I’m impressed with “Dark Side Of The Mule,” even though Haynes & co didn’t play the songs note by note. I sill believe their takes sound great!

      As for concert sets of longtime artists, I guess it sometimes must be hard for them to balance fan expectations with their own sentiments.

      It appears The Doobies fall into the category of crowd pleasers, sticking to their top 40 hits. Guys like Springsteen take a middle ground, playing both well known songs and deeper cuts and covers. And then you have a third category like Dylan who play whatever they want and don’t seem to give a damn whether or not the audience is with them.


      1. Then you have bands like the Dead where you have no idea what they’ll play or whether one song will morph into another. Can’t remember if I mentioned this before but Arlo Guthrie has actually returned money to people who wanted to hear “Alice’s Restaurant.” He just doesn’t feel like being saddled with an 18-minute opus from 50 years ago every time he plays out. I love that tune but I can’t blame him on that at all.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. While “Alice’s Restaurant” undoubtedly is a classic, I get Guthrie’s stance on that one. Assuming your usual 90-minute or so set, Restaurant would account for one-sixth – that’s a big chunk of time!

        And, getting back to Springsteen one more time, if you play 3.5 to 4-hour shows, you get a great deal of flexibility and can play many of your big hits, as well as deep cuts.

        So maybe that’s the solution for all artists who find it difficult to figure out what to include in their shoes: just play 4-hour gigs!😜


      3. Bruce has more energy than pretty much everybody – audience, his other band members. I heard Van Zandt in a recent inverview saying he wouln’t mind playing shorter shows. But when Bruce gets firing on all cylinders it’s hard for him to stop. People at the show I was at were drooping. I caught my second wind somewhere in the third hour! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Can there be such as a thing as too much rock & roll? I don’t know, maybe.

        You’re right, Bruce essentially is in his own category, at least when it comes to live shows. It sounds like last time you and I saw him was during his River tour. Just like in your case, by the time he played MetLife Stadium, the set only included two songs from “The River” album: “Hungry Heart “and “Out In The Street.”

        That would have disappointed me with most other artists, but in Springsteen’s case, it simply didn’t matter. He played so many other great songs, including a bunch of cool covers like “Summertime Blues”, “Twist And Shout” and “Shout”. And, frankly, given his energy and visible excitement to perform, he could have done “Old MacDonald Had A Farm,” and it sill would have been awesome.

        I loved each and every minute of the 3 hours and 58 or so minutes he clocked at MetLife. Apparently, that duration set a new record for about a week. Springsteen then beat his own record during one of his shows in Philly, which lasted just over four hours!


      5. Especially when you consider he was 66 at the time. The Stones don’t play as long as that but Jagger’s in great shape.


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