The Allman Brothers Band Live at The Beacon Theatre
While the impact of the Allman Brothers' musicianship was deceptively powerful Thursday night, it was all the more so March 18th because the presence of guests, while entertaining in its own right, muffled the force of ABB's own music that evening. Little Milton was affectionately introduced by Haynes, who had the blues hero participate on The Deep End Vol. 1, singing as he did this night "Soulshine." Yet the uplifting gospel-like atmosphere conjured up with Milton, as well as Susan Tedeschi, on vocals (and a hot guitar duel with Haynes), was nothing but a letdown from the intensity The Brothers built during the early part of their set this evening.
As if sensing the hunger of the early weekend audience, "Midnight Rider," "Trouble No More" and "Stand Back" launched the band with a vengeance. The audience responded in kind, to the point that, when Haynes led the gallop into "Hoochie Coochie Man," Gregg's autobiographical ballad "Old Before My Time" became the smoothest shift of gears. If you deleted the guest spot, went right to this picturesque reading of "Egypt," then directly on to the second set, this Friday show might've been one of the highlights of Beacon history.
As it turned out, the de rigueur acoustic set, only marked time despite including Gregg at the grand piano for "Oncoming Traffic," on acoustic guitar with Warren for a beautifully bittersweet reading of Jackson Browne's "These Days" (a welcome respite from "Melissa, especially now that song's appearing in a TV commercial) and another authentic blues duet between Haynes and Trucks that hearkened back to the undercurrent of blues from the night before. "Aint' Wastin' Time No More" will never sound old in the hands of this band, especially as it seemed this night a comment on their own performances; while the drum solo from the previous night preserved the integrity of Butch Trucks, Jaimoe and Marc Quinones by their usually savvy means of developing a rhythmic scheme then taking turns embellishing it, a percussion interval roughly half its length(its effect magnified by the lighting) during "Black- Heated Woman" acted as a catapult for the Brothers into an absolutely sublime version of "Mountain Jam" lasting approximately 25 minutes.
Eschewing the recent tendency to extend the piece by way of interweaving other tunes with the melodic motif of Donovan's song, this night Derek and Warren, and only to a slightly lesser extent, Burbridge during his truncated solo spotlight, probed more deeply into the sing-song quality of the melody, opening up its spacious potential dramatically, to the point that, rowdy as they might have been, there was a point two-thirds of the way through this piece where it seemed the audience was at rapt attention, hanging on every finely-devised note being ushered forth as the band sought to find every nuance possible in the tune. This was a "Mountain Jam" founding Brother Duane Allman would've been proud to be a part of, as no doubt would be true of the "Southbound' encore. Shorn of the horns that have adorned the song in recent years, the guitarists elevated the tune through the ringing tandem guitar playing at the center of the song
The Allman Brothers Band's 17th's show might've disappointed audience members who hadn't seem them before. Perhaps even some died-in-the-wool Peacheads who dote on the most famous tunes would've found the show wanting. But a fan who genuinely hopes to be surprised and satisfied in wholly different ways?"which is how the band is playing at this point?"could not help but come away with admiration for ABB in their minds and satisfaction for themselves in their hearts. That sensation would be harder to grasp after the show the following evening through no fault of The Brothers, their guests or the crowd (which was pointedly more rabid than the night of St Patty's Day...go figure).
The Allman Brothers did nothing truly spectacular these two nights a the Beacon, saving it all for the night of March 21st, when, joined by pianist Chuck Leavell, the group exhumed "Jessica" (from Brothers and Sisters and reintroduced "Little Martha" and brought back "Blue Sky" and "Les Brers in A Minor," foundations of Eat A Peach (perhaps foreshadowing the next ABB archival release?).
Some less than fluid transitions, slightly off time solos and obvious cues from on-stage conductor Haynes (who appeared agitated at missing lyrics for Little Milton) marked both nights, but the recollections of the prime ABB interplay and the echo of the sounds they conjured up will carry most attendees till this summer's outdoor shows: while the subdued acoustic sets may not withstand the onslaught of those party-minded, the fundamental power at the command of The Allman Brothers Band should carry the day if they anywhere nearly approximate what they did this spring of 2005 at The Beacon Theatre in New York City.
Read David Miller's review of the same show.