The Allman Brothers Band: The Road Goes on Through 2004
“ How miraculous it seems to hear musicianship from the current ABB lineup with the same intelligence, invention and passion as the original lineup. ”
Some of the most emotional moments of The Allman Brothers' deceptively exciting set in New Hampshire on August 20th was Warren Haynes' stirring performance of Van Morrison's "Into The Mystic." Delivered with an almost religious fervor, the song came across as much as a hymn of gratitude on behalf of the band to be back on the road together againMeadowbrook Farms was the first stop of the second leg of the ABB summer touras an invocation of the group's muse directly from the guitarist/vocalist/songwriter who's done so much to help revitalize this legendary band. ABB's near two and one half hour set this late summer night was the collective flexing of muscles, in anticipation of greater things to comeand come they did the very next night at the Tweeter Center just outside of Boston.
In contrast to the magnificent expanse of the August 21st show, The Allmans played it comparatively conservatively in New Hampshire. Extended jamming was confined to "Rockin' Horse,"sung by Haynes and driven to feverish levels through his guitar interplay with Derek Trucksthe laidback Latin shuffle midsection of the otherwise languorous "Desdemona" and the archetypal Allman swagger that is "Instrumental Illness," where Jaimoe, Butch Trucks and Marc Quinones took a break that left you wanting more!?!?! Otherwise the superbly-paced two and one-half hours of music was confined to a rapid-fire succession of set pieces rendered in what might be considered definitive, albeit compact, readings: "Done Somebody Wrong," "Statesboro Blues" and the terrifically high-spirited set closer "Revival" (played more and more often as this summer progresses).
A mere set list, however, cannot convey the momentum ABB generated as they played. Nor can it accurately depict the high contrast the band created by juxtaposing the propulsive slashing shuffle and deep blues hues of "Don't Want You No More/"It's Not My Cross to Bear" with the gentle pastels and floating quality that emanated from "Ain't Wastin' Time No More." All of which was done without any faux showmanship to interfere with the inherent drama of making music: it's riveting to watch Derek Trucks as patiently builds a solo, methodically interweaving ideas until his playing virtually bursts into flaming intensity.
In what was just the beginning of a stark comparison of two consecutive concerts, The Allmans could've hardly started their show in Massachusetts with a bigger surprise than "Mountain Jam:" easing gently into the lilting theme as the band picked up speed and power, it was more than a little courageous, given the rabid rowdy crowd in front of them that might not have all the patience in the world. But this set evolved into something of a summary of all the best moments The Allman Brothers first unveiled upon the stage of New York's Beacon theater this past March, consisting of lengthy improvisations combined with a clutch of cover tunes, all of which was cemented together by a series of astutely positioned signature songs, leading right up to and including an encore that satiated the audience and the band(Haynes and Allman heartily shook hands to congratulate each other when the music was finally over).
Always the bellwether of The Brothers, the night before Gregg Allman had taken an exquisitely slow turn through "Melissa," while Warren played the most bittersweet guitar accompaniment behind his world-weary voice. In Massachusetts, the group's namesake turned The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" into a personal statement(as well as an ode to his Southern heritage) :when he so poignantly sang the lines "like my brother before me/I'm a workin' man." Recalling the high-spirits and light-touch inherent in "Jessica, " Warren then led the group on a gallop through "Why Does Love Got to be So Sad" and the exhilaration The Allmans generated throughout the Tweeter at this point became even more palpable when they oh-so-gracefully transformed the Derek & the Dominos tune into Grateful Dead's "Franklin's Tower," which was sung with equal parts relish and delight by Oteil Burbridge; the young bassist who has become the band's unsung hero and secret weapon( based not just on how often he accurately anticipates the other members of the band in such interludes, but also those intuitive his call-and-responses with Haynes.