Warren Haynes Band
Charleston Music Hall
April 19

Guitarist Warren Haynes’ return to Charleston had fans wrapped around the block on John Street waiting to get into the Charleston Music Hall Thursday night. Problems with ticket scanners left many waiting outside for longer than usual, and it pushed the show back nearly an hour. Despite the wait, the sold-out crowd was in high spirits as Haynes took the stage and introduced the members of his new side project, a more R&B-oriented cast than his usual Southern rock companions.

The band launched right into a fiery version of “Rivers Gonna Rise,” featuring the amazingly-well orchestrated guitar and saxophone interplay that would be a staple for the rest of the night. Haynes’ usual screaming guitar solos were peppered tastefully throughout a first set that featured quite a few slower, more soulful tunes than perhaps some Gov’t Mule fans were expecting.

By the second set, the crowd was getting loosened up as the band kicked into an extended, funked-out version of the Staple Singers “I’ll Take You There.” Backup singing by keyboardist Nigel Hall and vocalist Alecia Chakour made for a sultry Motown backdrop behind Haynes’ loud and gritty Southern rock voice. The focused and stoic guitarist barely cracked a smile through the long and notably more rockin’ second set until the “Soulshine” closer, which left the room beaming and full of energy.

After the sad news of veteran drummer and songwriter Levon Helm’s passing came out earlier that day, many were expecting Haynes to pay homage to the legendary musician. As he strummed the first quiet chords of the Band’s “It Makes No Difference,” the room fell absolutely silent. His band played a masterful tribute segueing into “The Weight” before dramatically closing with a final verse, “And the sun won’t shine anymore.” Haynes wiped his eyes as he walked away to huge applause. It was as moving of a tribute as anyone could imagine.