Published Sep 17, 2016Emerging to the strains of the Clash's "Know Your Rights" — "This is a public service announcement with guitars!" — there could be little doubt what we were about to see. The Drive-By Truckers have always been a political band, but with their recent full-throated endorsement of Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton, they've made the leap into straight-up activism.
Many of this southern American band's longtime fans have responded with intense, even vitriolic displeasure — their Facebook page is a bloodbath these days. Wait 'til those erstwhile fans hear American Band, the DBT's new album, with its condemnation of the NRA and celebration of the Black Lives Matter movement.
For their set last night (September 16) under a full Harvest Moon (and the Gardiner Expressway), the Truckers pulled heavily from their remarkable new material. At times it felt as much like a media showcase as a regular show, but the new songs are strong, and the audience was happily along for the ride. Indeed, the small crowd — James Bay was playing to thousands less than 500 metres away on a main stage — was treated to a rare and intimate date with this venerable act.
The 75-minute set also featured a few old favourites ("Sink Hole," "Marry Me"), as co-frontmen Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley traded lead vocals all night. To close the set, while their steady rhythm section held it all down, the band shifted between "Hell No I Ain't Happy" and Prince's indelible "Sign O' the Times." Another public service message. With guitars.
Joking about playing Fort York, which saw battles between Canadians (well, the British, but still) and Americans during the War of 1812, Hood quipped: "You've already started building your wall! Hell, maybe our next album will be called Canadian Band!" As far as this adoring crowd was concerned, the DBT are welcome any time.