The last time the Drive-By Truckers performed in Portland, they were sharing headline duties with the Old 97s at the State Theatre. That was a fantastic evening and a fitting double-bill of Southern rock and alt.country veterans, but when the Truckers took the stage at the more-intimate Port City Music Hall, there was a sense that this setting – as opposed to the large theaters they occasionally find themselves in – is where they belong: a hot, damp, beer-soaked club, with a raucous audience sandwiched tightly between the stage and the bar.

In terms of pure rock, they’re one of the better live bands in the country – so much so that fans are happy to shell out more than $50 for vinyl editions of their recent live album, It’s Great to Be Alive! – and the audience skewed older and somewhat blue-collar, with a healthy mix of young, jam-band enthusiasts. The Truckers have a wide appeal, and with origins that straddle the Muscle Shoals region of Alabama, famed in soul-music lore, and the college-rock mecca of Athens, Georgia, they also embody a range of influences – even taking the stage at Port City to the cranked-up sounds of rapper Kendrick Lamar’s hot-off-the-presses untitled unmastered.

For a newcomer to one of their concerts, it’s easy to see their appeal. They’re adept at slow, gospel-inspired numbers; midtempo, Allman Brothers-esque Southern rock; and massive dirges that heavily recall Neil Young and Crazy Horse. More than half their songs have opening guitar riffs that hit you like a shovel and force you to listen up – either that or yell “woo!” – and their lyrical content is intelligent and rich with bar-band themes of road warriors, romance, whiskey, washed-up losers and gritty survivors.

But the greatest key to their success is the range that having two charismatic frontmen affords them. Patterson Hood possesses a more hardscrabble, soulful, Joe Cocker-like voice, and throws himself into his performance with passion that even the people in the back row can see. Mike Cooley is a bit more cool and reserved, and sings with a honeyed midrange more similar to Willie Nelson or Jimmie Dale Gilmore. The two provide a nice balance, and a show that never grows stale.

The band typically plays a set that balances their whole career and varies from night to night (frequently favoring their 2001 breakthough Southern Rock Opera). On this night, however, Hood explained he was fighting laryngitis, and so the set tipped slightly more to Cooley songs. This included the infectious, crowd-pleasing “Where the Devil Don’t Stay,” the easygoing “First Air of Autumn,” and the Replacements-like “Marry Me.”

The audience still got Hood favorites, such as the powerhouse “Tornadoes” and the world-weary, suicide-themed meditation of “Lookout Mountain.” It must have hurt like heck for Hood to sing with such a hoarse throat, but for listeners, his illness became an asset rather than a liability, accentuating the raspy, lived-in quality of his voice. This was especially pointed in “The Living Bubba,” a country-rock anthem with the chorus of “I can’t die now because I’ve got another show to do.” Hood’s strained but successful attempt to fight his way through that song, and those lines, nicely encapsulated the ethos of his whole band.

Robert Ker is a freelance music writer in Portland.