12.22.14 Jam Central Station: Gov’t Mule – Dark Side of the Mule Review
The new Halloween tradition of adding cover songs (or a full set of covers) to a show can be risky business. You never quite know what you’re going to get. Different bands handle Halloween in different ways. For Gov’t Mule, their recent Halloween shows have included a full set of cover songs focused on one artist. In 2008, the band took on the catalog of Pink Floyd. Tackling any Pink Floyd song is risky business. The band is iconic, and their style is unique and very difficult to emulate. Try to stay too close to the original and you’re likely to sound flat. Venture too far away and you’ll likely get accused of not giving the original enough respect. 6 years after their Pink Floyd Halloween set, Gov’t Mule decided to release the set in the new archival album Dark Side of the Mule.
Despite the name, Mule doesn’t actually do a full cover of Dark Side of the Moon for this set. They also don’t venture too deep into the Pink Floyd catalog. Every song is relatively well known, with the most obscure songs being “Fearless,” “Pigs on the Wing” and the second half of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” They weren’t going into anything obscure, but they did pick songs from various eras of Floyd’s mainstream success. After listening to this release, I can say that I wish I was at this show. I’m not a huge Mule fan, but I am a Pink Floyd fan, and I can’t think of any band that did as good of a job on a set of Floyd material than Gov’t Mule did with this one. They picked some great songs, they performed them extremely well, and the overall flow of the set is excellent.
The set starts out with the mostly instrumental “One Of These Days,” and the band brings the energy and intensity that the song requires. The band is able to emulate Floyd while bringing a raw energy to the song. They even came very close to finding the original bass, keyboard, and guitar tones that Floyd was known for. The switch from that to the almost acoustic “Fearless” is a jarring one, but it allowed Mule to take on two extremes of the Floyd catalog early on. While Haynes will never be confused with either David Gilmour or Roger Waters, he handles the vocals beautifully. There’s no stumbling over lyrics or changes anyone on the album. The band also adds some real emotion into the songs. This was one of Jorgen Carlson’s first shows on bass for the band, and songs like “Pigs on the Wing” or “Wish You Were Here” certainly became more poignant in the absence of Andy Hess and Allen Woody.