The Allman Brothers Band at the Beacon Theatre: Preview 2004
The inherent possibilities of this alignment seemed somewhat stunted when in spring of 2000 founder guitarist Dickey Betts was asked to leave the group on the eve of its annual summer tour. The final Epic release, Peakin' at the Beacon, was ostensibly released without the group's consent, but it nevertheless set the stage for the radical events that were about to speed up the rejuvenation of the band in ways even they could not imagine. It was probably no accident most of the material was original material of Gregg's from the first through third albums'
Serendipity brought more to the Allmans than possibly any amount of strategizing could could. Jimmy Herring, who had played in the ARU with Oteil, took over guitar and brought a wholly fresh perspective to the band's native resources, helping reintroduce material to the repertoire they hadn't played in years, most conspicuously "Mountain Jam" which the group had been only teasing during its extended sets. The accidental death of Allen Woody closed down some avenues for Warren Haynes, but opened him up to the possibility of rejoining the Allmans when Herring decided he couldn't take Betts' place permanently.
So it was that as a special guest Warren Haynes played with the Allmans during their Beacon run of 2001 and found everyone in the band, from the namesake to newest recruit, playing with fire and purpose. The rest is history'in the making. The prominent role Haynes has assumed for The Allman Brothers is indispensable: not only does he sing and play for the band (and has developed an unnaturally sympathetic relationship as a guitarist with Derek that he never had with Dickey), but he helped co-produce a superb studio album for the group, Hittin' the Note , for which he also composed, often in tandem with Gregg, the bulk of the material. The unity of the band has solidified personally and musically so that, with no self-consciousness to speak of except that of their own self-awareness of their history, The Allman Brothers Band has indeed gotten back to where it all begins, with the added wisdom of those years of hard luck and perseverance that has finally begun to reward them with the self-satisfaction of music well-played and the recognition they deserve for it. Even irony has turned favorable for ABB as past record companies scrambled to capitalize on the band's ascent and actually did them favors; the vaults of Sony Music gave forth the two disc document of their 1970 appearance at the Atlanta Pop festival in late 2003, reaffirming the invention and power of the band months before the Fillmore recordings(which were themselves repackaged for consumption by new legions of Peach-heads late in 2003 as well).
But the 35th Allman anniversary began in 2004 with dates at the Beacon to coincide with the release of a double audio cd One Way Out, recorded during the 2003 run where, as evidenced by the DVD recorded during that same period, the group's stretched itself in ways they might not have imagined even at their beginnings, bringing passion and commitment to a legacy that once again seems worthy of legend. The ensuing months saw an elevation of activity for The Brothers that has carried over into 2005. For all intents and purposes, Allmans activity never really ceased as the summer tour stetched into the autumn and the band reconvened in late fall to perform the Eat A Peach song cycle broadcast, in its entirety on XM satellite radio, in December.
For a group that's faced down its demons as often and effectively as ABB, this constituted a confrontation with its most recent ghost in the form of departed guitarist Dickey Betts, whose songs on this classic album'""Blue Sky,'? "Les Brers in A Minor'? are arguably at the very heart of the work; having performed those tunes for the first time since his departure in 2000 during the Fox Theatre run in September of last year, The Allman Brothers Band circa 2005 are once again reclaiming a piece of their history to which they are, rightly or wrongly, fully due.(The 2004 archival release of a 1972 performance commandeered by Betts in the wake of Duane Allman's death is a fittingly gracious acknowledgment of the guitarist's profound contributions to the group). It's a measure of their collective bravery they do so, but then, as stated at the outset of this piece, courage is at the very foundaton of The Allmans' music and has been so since the band began: it is that daring which drives their improvisations as well as the refinement of a self-styled standard repertoire to which they bring authentic emotion and fresh interpretation on a regular basis. All of what this band called The Allman Brothers has ever done has been grounded in their music and it's for that very reason they have survived so long and continue to prosper today, in as many ways as they now do, heading with fully justified confidence as well as valor, toward their next anniversary.