The Allman Brothers Band in Concert: Beacon Theatre 2003
The Allman Brothers Band celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2003 and f you''ve had the pleasure of seeing the sextet in concert over the last year or so, you probably came away convinced they are practically as great a rock and roll band now as they've ever been in the entire course of their history. The momentum the group generated in 2003 alone consolidated the gains derived from the gradual injection of new blood into the band over the last few years. ABB has now reached a point where their legacy overshadows their myth.
Over a decade ago, The Allman Brothers Band settled into a groove in which they played an annual run of shows at the Beacon Theater in New York city in the spring, followed by a regular summer tour of sheds and pavilions across the United States and Canada. The intimacy of the Beacon shows allowed the group to gauge the audience response by road-testing tunes, arrangements and experiments. In so doing, the band could determine what works best in the larger venues. And while this approach suggests something of a scientific method, based on the lengthy satisfying set the group played at the Tweeter Center July 13th, it certainly doesn't preclude surprises. How else but startling can you describe a group with as much history as the Allmans, opening their set with 'Layla.' a tune as much or more archetypal than their best own known? Young guitarist Derek Trucks garnered the first of many rounds of well-deserved applause for his poignant playing on the coda, accompanied with equal taste by Gregg Allman on piano. And if the latter arrangement sounds unusual, it's not much more so than the jaunty means by which Allman now sings 'Ain't Wastin' Time No More': less wistful than resolute, Gregg's throaty singing was replete with the authority and soul he displayed all evening (even if some of it was drowned out by the crowd singalong?!).
Gregg, and to a slightly lesser extent guitarist/songwriter Warren Haynes, were effusive in their gratitude for the knowledgeable appreciation of the near-capacity crowd at the open-air shed on this gorgeous full-moonlit night. The audience response to the drums and percussion segment near set's end was a fully justified ovation, but the display put on by Jaimoe, Butch Trucks and Marc Quinones, was simply their turn to exhibit, with just the right amount of restraint, their own technical expertise combined with a unity that seems to be continuing to solidify amongst this lineup of Allman Brothers, now stable for two years running. The guitar call and response enacted between Trucks and Haynes at the close of "'Woman Across the River'" is as full a display of their chemistry as the tandem guitar riffing of '"Every Hungry Woman.'" And the sight of Allman playing acoustic guitar to 'Melissa,' with Haynes directly to his left, ushering along an understated electric lead, equal parts country and blues (remember he once played for country outlaw David Allen Coe), is yet another sign of the camaraderie underlying this group's musical and personal relationships.
It's quite clear that Warren directs much of the on-stage interaction of the current lineup. And it's not just his extended solo interludes such as the ghostly version of '"Good Morning Little Schoolgirl"' or even the coarse, gritty intensity with which he played his solo section of '"Dreams;'" if it's true that the precocious Trucks' embodies the spirit of adventure of this group---the hallmark of the best music ABB has always made'then it's Haynes grasp of the roots of their music in traditional blues as well as English hard rock, plus his seasoned craftsmanship, that has helped restored the balance of the band. Warren has matured greatly over the last couple years and most significantly in the increasing intricacy of his guitar work. It's no coincidence that he's worked with Trucks most during that time, but that's not to diminish Haynes' own influence on Trucks, the intensity of whose playing has increased dramatically since working with Warren. The young guitarslinger nevertheless refuses to take the predictable means on his own solos: he began his spotlight on '"Dreams"' in a middle-eastern mode before nailing the original fiery slide climax not once but twice.