Tradition is often what defines a people as a culture and all tradition is born out of habit. Some habits are good and some not so much, while others are just plain bad ass. Like Widespread Panic and their annual multi-day runs at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, another staple can be counted on at the world’s most iconic and scenic outdoor venue.
Since September of 1991, Blues Traveler has played Red Rocks 33 times and of those, 26 have been performed on the 4th of July and for the twentieth year in a row, the bad boys of New Jersey let their freedom ring out once again in the Rocky Mountains on Monday night. Supported by Cory Wong, Robert Randolph, and ten thousand plus of their closest friends, the five some lit off auditory fireworks display that showed once again how this band makes this date of liberation their own and why they wouldn’t think of spending it anywhere else year after year.
The evening kicked off with a soulful set of searing sermons from Robert Randolph and his latest band. Laying it out with everything from the funk, to gospel, to the psychedelic, this man showed how much church can be outrageous fun.
Following the Randolph Family, Cory Wong and the Wong Notes brought their high energy from the onset and kept the upbeat vibe going where the opener left off. With a six-piece horn section, the sound was full and the instrumentals that band delivered showed how polished a band can be. Wong also brought a charisma to the stage with dance moves and accentuations that made the set visually entertaining as well.
Following two great sets that would have been worth the price of admission, the main event had finally arrived. Blues Traveler dropped a single set that went two plus hours and had everything from nostalgia, the sing along, the sit ins, and so much more. The band started up with Charlie Daniel’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and got everyone involved from the onset. “Runaround” came early in the set and spotlighted Kiran Wilson on trumpet, son of the BT organ master Ben Wilson, sitting side by side with his dad and being heralded by Popper with a full house applause at its end. “Mulling It Over” had the Wong Notes horns sitting in and included a duel for the highest note between Popper and the saxophonist. Cory Wong joined in on “Carolina” and much like the pulmonary duel, Wong and Chan went into a full-on shred fest battle, ending with both sides sweaty, smiling, and vibing on the gratitude of the audience. Obviously, the show wouldn’t have been complete with a sit in from Robert Randolph and he got his chance with the encore “The Mountains Win Again”, demonstrating his slide capabilities and having his own moment with Popper, as the two locked eyes and exchanged soulful notes on the melancholy ballad.
In the end, the faithful got four hours of music, a perfect Morrison night, and an opportunity to celebrate our country’s birth and the ringing in of another memory of fun, family, and the Fourth.