Gov't Mule, "Wish You Were Here"
Beacon Theater, New York City, December 30th
This was a hard year in rock & roll passings, and Warren Haynes – the Mule's singer-guitarist-leader – was painfully close to two of them: the suicide of Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks last January and the passing of the Allmans' founding singer-organist Gregg Allman in May. In a room where he spent so many nights onstage with the Allmans, Haynes acknowledged the missing by coming out of the drum-solo sequence in the second set with a full-blown cover of the Allmans' instrumental "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," with guitarist Jimmy Vivino. Then, in the encore, Haynes played a brief flourish of Duane Allman's "Little Martha" before leading the Mule and their audience into a majestic reading of Pink Floyd's ballad of memorial, "Wish You Were Here." Near the end, Haynes stepped around his mike to the front of the stage and let everyone else take the final verse, a gesture of sharing with the crowd and a lesson in singing through profound loss. This year will be a hard one too. But we have the songs to move through it.