Gov’t Mule at Pine Knob Music Theatre in Clarkston, MI

Gov't Mule @ Pine Knob, Clarkston | Photo by Jena McShane

Classic rock fans celebrated 50 years of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon with Gov’t Mule’s fitting tribute at Pine Knob Music Theatre.

Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience jump-started the nostalgic evening by playing an hour’s worth of hits from his late father’s band. Crowd pleasers like “The Ocean,” “Ramble On,” “Whole Lotta Love,” “Black Dog” and more were all on the agenda. 

It is impossible to measure up to one of the most iconic rock groups of all time, even as a tribute band, but Bonham assembled a crew worthy of the task. Bonham plays with his father’s same ferocious aggression, and while lead singer James Dylan might not look anything like Robert Plant, his voice was like a time machine taking the crowd back to the peak days of Zeppelin. So while the crowd all looked quite a bit older, the sound – and smells – were exactly how one would imagine a classic Led Zeppelin concert to be like. 

Gov’t Mule gave the crowd a break from cover songs by using the beginning of their set for original material. Warren Haynes and company kicked things off by dipping back to a couple of tracks from their 1998 album Dose. With their almost 15-minute opening song “Game Face,” fans got a reminder of exactly what makes The Mule so special: tight musicianship paired with a healthy amount of improvisation led by Haynes’ exceptional guitar work. Also included in their original material set were “Peace I Need” and “After the Storm,” two songs from their recently released album Peace… Like a River. 

After nearly an hour, the skies were dark enough for a full moon to be visible from the lawn seats, and that meant it was time for The Mule to show their love for Pink Floyd and the treasured Dark Side of the Moon album.

Two non-Dark Side songs started the Pink Floyd portion of the evening. The long, slow build of “Shine on You Crazy Diamond (I-V)” gave Haynes the opportunity to show off his guitar skills and respectfully make the song his own while accompanied by keyboardist Danny Louis. Drummer Matt Abts then led the singing on “Have a Cigar,” and while fans know he usually leads the song at Dark Side of the Mule shows, his vocals were jarring compared to the typical buttery tones heard on all other songs of the night. 

Next up, The Mule played nearly the entirety of Dark Side of the Moon while multi-colored lasers sketched out geometric shapes overhead. Among the highlights of the night was the mind-blowing, impassioned wails from the guest female vocalists on “Great Gig in the Sky.” It kept getting better from there as Haynes then led the group on expansive jam sessions during “Money” followed by “Us and Them.” 

Rounding off the set was “One of These Days,” “Fearless” and “Echoes, Part 2.” The band then took a brief break ahead of a double encore, starting with the Floyd classic “Comfortably Numb.” The Mule then walked off stage again before being called back for their second and final encore, “Wish You Were Here.”  

Gov’t Mule had said they had not originally planned on doing a Dark Side of the Mule Tour this year but the 50th anniversary of the album had compelled them to make another run at it. For all we know, this could be the last time. So whether you are a fan of jam bands like The Mule or classic rock like Pink Floyd, get out and see this amazing tour while you can.

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About Jena McShane 27 Articles
Jena McShane is a Lansing, MI based photographer specializing in candid portraiture, live music, and stormy landscapes.