1. Give these guys a choir—The Word is the finest church band you’ll ever see. Five of the best musicians at what they do comprise the sacred steel/gospel band: Robert Randolph, pedal-steel guitar king, John Medeski, the superb keyboardist from Medeski Martin & Wood, plus all three North Mississippi Allstars (brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson, and Chris Chew).
2. The bulk of the two-hour, 24-minute set consists of long instrumental jams, joyous in nature. That allows the crowd to focus on individual players or let their minds wander, making for a spiritual evening either way.
3. Randolph is appointment viewing whenever he’s in town. In contrast to his regular work with The Family Band, he’s more laid-back onstage with The Word, as he and guitarist Luther Dickinson exchange hot licks on songs like “Chocolate Cowboy.”
4. Medeski makes magic on the organ, and he’s equally fun to watch. I’ve never seen a keyboard player sing to himself, especially on songs without words. But whatever he thinks might be missing, he fills in by mouthing “bop bop bum” again and again.
5. Opener Amy Helm, daughter of The Band’s legendary drummer Levon Helm, joins The Word onstage for a few songs, singing like she’s making up for all the parts of the show that don’t feature words. Randolph and Helm trade vocals on “Come by Here” and it ratchets an already fine show up to another level.