When Warren Haynes—Gov’t Mule frontman and part-time member of both The Dead and the Allman Brothers—took the stage for a solo set at the 2003 Bonnaroo Festival, he had no intention of releasing the performance as an album. Good thing, too, as he likely would’ve been far too self-conscious to fill the set with covers of Radiohead (“Lucky”), the Eagles (“Wasted Time”) and Otis Redding (“I’ve Got Dreams to Remember”), not to mention the first performance ever of his heartbreaking tribute to Jerry Garcia (“Patchwork Quilt”) and the never-before-recorded “Forever.”
As you might’ve already guessed, the format narrows his song-list options considerably, so you get the sober and somber Haynes rather than the loose, musically adventurous version. But that’s just fine because, in addition to the well-chosen covers, Live at Bonnaroo features powerful performances of Mule mainstays “In My Life,” “Beautifully Broken,” and especially “Tastes Like Wine,” which comes into even clearer focus in the solo setting. The disc shows Haynes to be that rare commodity—a remarkably adept sideman, an able group leader, and a potent solo performer, all in one.