The Allman Brothers Band: Live at The Beacon Theatre NYC 2006
“ With special guests appearing every single night of this year's Beacon run, it was as if The Allman Brothers Band was testing their own mettle. ”
The Allman Brothers Band
New York, NY
March 10-11, 2006
Let us now praise famous men...
Because it's probably not fair to expect the Allman Brothers Band to enact a miraculous reinvention of themselves every year. From the sounds and sights of two shows from the two-week run at this year's New York City's Beacon Theatre, ABB is not resting on their laurelsquite the contrary, making every valiant attempt to refine their craft and expand it.
And well they should since the current lineup, in place since 2001 when Warren Haynes rejoined the group as a 'special guest' at that year's Beacon engagement, boasts the second longest tenure in the fabled group's 37-year history (the first being the personnel including himself and Allen Woody together from 1989 to 1997). Building upon The Allmans' own history, not to mention the roots of their music in blues and hard rock, the 2006 Brothers called upon their own reserves and those resources of likeminded musicians to explore and recapitulate their improvisationally-based music. With special guests appearing every single night, it was as if ABB was testing their own mettle.
As overheard in the loge before the Saturday show, the departure of Dickey Betts in 2000 opened the Allman Brothers up to a decidedly more jazz-oriented direction, keynoted on the evening of March 12th, when venerable jazz drummer Roy Haynes sat in with the band. The last in a veritable procession of guests that graced the stage with ABB this Saturday, Haynes led the band through "Afro Blue," during which performance every single member of the Allmans took a turn just watching the 81-year-old drummer's fiercely-articulated percussion work.
If that was one of the most musically satisfying moments, it elicited nowhere near the building-shaking ovation the audience tendered with almost religious fervor when ABB, led by Haynes, together with original Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington, swaggered through a highly-emotional rendition of "Simple Man. Peter Frampton's first appearance was greeted slightly less loudly and he acquitted himself nicely by leading The Brothers, together with Warren, who was definitely master of ceremonies of the evening, in and out of a chunky arrangement of "Born Under A Bad Sign; " the icon from the Seventies, now looking like nothing so much as some sort of rock and roll gnome with his bald pate and white goatee, added only little less to the encore of "Southbound.
This almost but not quite perfunctory performance was in decided contrast to the highpoint of the dual sets as presented by the Allman Brothers on their own. The explosive opening of "Don't Want You No More/Ain't My Cross to Bear was something of a red herring as the slant of the evening was much more refined in the form of "Instrumental Illness' and "Les Brers in A Minor; each instrumental from decidedly different epoch of ABB history, the instrumental approach on each was sleek, quick and more than a little majestic as the septet brought them to a unified finish.
The spooky syncopated likes of Dr. John's "Walk on Gilded Splinters furnished a spotlight for namesake Gregg Allman, as did the resounding slow blues of "Key to Highway. Trading verses with Haynes suggests the empathy between the two musicians, as did the latter's scalding solo on the acoustic "Melissa, which burned away all the saccharine import the tune has gained since it first appeared on Eat a Peach (and more recently, Cingular commercials.) The leader of Gov't Mule put his fiery staccato solo style on display during a loud pulsing version of "Dreams, alternating between slide and fingerstyle as if to demonstrate how effectively his guitar work functions as a foil for his fretboard partner Derek Trucks.
The 26-year-old guitar wunderkind is definitely the star of The Allman Brothers right now. Even if his profile were not on the rise by dint of he publicity surrounding the release of his own band's new album Songlines (which was played before the March 10th show and during set break as well), the acclamation afforded each of his solos might lead the uninitiated to think ABB was his band. Certainly, he is much ore comfortable and assertive on stage with the Allmans than every before, but it is of course the startling ingenuity of his playing that is the source of his growing fame.