Drive-By Truckers @ Leeds Metropolitan University 11.05.11

On a particularly balmy night in central Leeds a fairly standard sight can be seen at the Metropolitan SU Bar. Large groups of semi-drunk people in an array of plaid lumberjack shirts can be seen clamouring for the moderately overpriced bar ahead of another crowded night of music. However, in a slight change of pace, a large portion of these plaid shirted folk are bearded, well into their fifties and if asked about a "G6" are more likely to give you a technical run-down on the French reconnaissance aircraft used frequently in the First World War than the recent club hit of the Far East Movement. With that said however the air is still bristling with a youthful sense of excitement and the odds of someone being violently sick in a plant pot before the night is through are still positively high.

May 11th, 2011 at Leeds Metropolitan University / By Matthew Bayfield
Drive-By Truckers The reason for all this whiskey and excitement is the current live tour of Athens, Georgia's premier southern rock sextet the Drive-By Truckers. Potentially one of America's best kept secrets, alongside The Grateful Dead and 50 Cent's Magic Stick Condoms, (although perhaps some things are best left secret) the 'Truckers have been releasing and touring records almost constantly since the start of the millennium, to consistent critical acclaim and a level of recognition which never really seems to reflect their regularly excellent reputation.. Not to mention their lack of a branded contraceptive sponsor. This however, seems to be a moot point to the densely packed cheering crowd as the band take to the stage and open proceedings with 'I Do Believe', which fittingly is the opening track to their newest album release Go-Go Boots. From this relatively gentle intro the band then tear into 'Where The Devil Don't Stay', a bourbon smoked rocker which showcases the band's infamous 3 guitar formation to be in vicious health and seemingly possessing the ability to make middle aged men act younger than their own children

From here the band expertly navigate tracks from every corner of their past releases, the tempo ebbing & flowing with just enough judgement for the momentum to never lose itself too much in the slower numbers such as 1999's tender 'Box Of Spiders' or be strained out over too many rockers. However, when Shonna Tucker, the band's female bassist, steps forward to the microphone to sing new album cut 'Dancin' Ricky' the audience seems almost at once to turn from whiskey rock'n'rollers to bleary eyed children. It's only a matter of time before some grown men get to cryin...

This brief emotional respite, further maintained with a few slower and introspective numbers from both lead vocalist/guitarist Patterson Hood and lead guitarist/vocalist Mike Cooley is then promptly torn down by the appearance of long-standing favourite 'Steve McQueen' which apparently appears to be channelling the spirit and recklessness of the man himself straight into the hips and heart of the 50 year old throwing high-proof alcohol straight into the beard of this Bearded reporter throughout its adrenaline packed 4 minutes. All those sensitive souls can now go back to trying to convince their girlfriends they're are men's men after all whilst trying to gingerly pluck a wet wipe from her unsuspecting handbag.

The best part of the next hour and three quarters then proceeds to prove that not only can music make grown men cry, smile and pretend they are can play an invisible Les Paul, but that chart success and number one singles are in no way a seal of quality or authenticity (and in no way is that an accusation that 50 Cent isn't an expert on contraceptives) and more importantly, if the Drive-By Truckers continue to move their audiences like they have this gig, and sound as genuine and heartfelt as they always have, then the rest will hopefully fall into place... If a representative of Durex is reading this however, maybe the world is as long overdue on a Double Thick Dirty South or an 18 Wheels Of Love Variety Pack as the Truckers are on a top ten album... Just a thought.