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Review: Drive-By Truckers @ Metro Theatre (Sydney)

Drive-By Truckers played Metro Theatre (Sydney) on 1 April, 2024.
David James Young is a music writer and podcaster, working in Wollongong on Dharawal land.

It's dangerous to go alone. It was true in 'The Legend Of Zelda', and it's true tonight: Sydney singer-songwriter Sam Windley is up against it as she takes to the stage of the Metro Theatre (1 April).

It's abundantly clear from the outset that this is, by and large, an audience here to see one band – and not only is Windley not in that band, she's not even a band.

To this crowd, conversation is far more important than anything she has to sing – which is a shame, given she's far more interesting than they're willing to give her credit for.

A half-hour spent with Windley, when the music crests atop the noise, is one engaged with a songwriter that's equal parts head and heart. Deceptively simple, with complex thoughts and feelings woven between strummed chords, make Windley worthy of your time and attention. It's just unfortunate these efforts go largely unappreciated.

It goes deeper than just being a solo artist, too: You just know they wouldn't treat a bloke the same way. Chin up, Windley – you'll find your proper audience yet, away from the cacophony.

Like any self-respecting road hog does, Drive-By Truckers arrive punctually to begin their journey and do not stop for two hours straight. Not even to grab an iced coffee from the service station.

It's all gas, no brakes as far as the Athens, Georgia, veterans are concerned – and it's truly remarkable to see the proverbial wheels in motion. From their triple-pronged guitar attacks to their extensive southern-fried jam sessions, it's clear this iteration of the band – now 12-years strong – has the peaks and valleys of a great show all mapped out.

Patterson Hood is our irrepressible main character of the evening, doing most of the talking and most of the singing. Though his co-founding cohort Mike Cooley is a strong vocalist and great guitarist in his own right (as well as an excellent harmonica player, as one jam revealed), Hood is a larger-than-life figure that fills the room with his exuberance and energy.

When a guitar goes out of tune during 'The Company I Keep', he simply hands it to a roadie and turns into a makeshift frontman with his arms outstretched.

When the band play '18 Wheels Of Love', Hood tells the tale of his childhood and his mother eloping before leading the crowd in a sing-along of "my mama ran off with a trucker" – with us now knowing the full context and weight of those words, sung in high celebratory spirit.

He even seamlessly transitions an extended version of his hometown ode 'Buttholeville' into a rendition of the Springsteen classic 'State Trooper' – quite literally showing the Metro who The Boss is around these parts.

"If Trump wins again in November, do y'all mind if we all come and live down here?" Hood asks towards the end of the show. It's met with a resounding cheer – we'd happily accept these Georgia boys as our own any old time.

Plus, any excuse to get them back on our stages for another two-hour trip will do – especially if it ends in the spectacular fashion tonight does. In a ten-minute version of 'Angels And Fuselage' the band lead one last sing-along before locking into the last shimmering, mesmerising waltz of the evening.

One by one, they drop off the stage and bid farewell – leaving just keyboardist Jay Gonzalez to shut up shop at the end. With that final piano chord comes a feeling of resolve: We have arrived, safely, at our destination.

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