Brothers in Beantown: The Allmans' Summer Tour '07
“ On August 8th, ABB sounded deeply in touch with all the essentials of their sound: soulful singing, a genuine feel for the blues, superlative guitar work and brilliant collective improvisation ”
As if hometown heroes or returning prodigal sons, the band took the stage to absolutely roaring acclamation on August 7th. Unlike the Mansfield show in 2006, however, the fitful progression of the two sets suggested that, rather than meet the response (and expectation) head-on, ABB were knocked off center somewhat, especially in comparison to the thrilling events of the following evening.
The contrast between the two nights might be summed up in the comparative performances of a single tune. "Dreams was the first song Gregg Allman presented to his late brother Duane and the rest of the group the older sibling had assembled back in 1969. It is an exemplary piece of modern blues, and at its best, it also serves as an atmospheric showpiece for the featured guitarist and, by extension, the whole of ABB. Opening the second set the second night, Trucks demonstrated the ingenuity and intensity at his command while illustrating his profound connection to the composition itself. And the whole band responded in kind.
Warren Haynes took the spotlight on the 7th and never truly caught the flow of the song or the band behind him, playing around the notes of his solo rather than nailing them resoundingly. It's a credit to his savvy that he didn't overextend himself, as if knowing he missed his target. Yet it's rare he misses the mark.
As is true of The Allman Brothers lineup of the new millennium. But it was a distinct reality at Bank of America Pavilion this night as the septet never truly gathered momentum during either the first or second set. The articulate guitar playing remained, however, especially when Haynes and Trucks, as on "Every Hungry Woman, would joust with their guitars, then harmonize in sweet sonority.
And while seemingly not wholly engaged in the performanceno doubt a bellwether of the band's apparent distanceGregg Allman neverthless sang "Key to the Highway with deep soul, once again reaffirming his passion for and simpatico for the blues. Ultimately, though, the first of two nights was notable for a string of moments instead of a whole made seamless through improvisational segues that connected songs and jams constituting songs in and of themselves.
The exploration of "Revival contained some detail missing from the broad strokes of musicianship in play elsewhere. in its stirring duet between bassist Oteil and Susan Tedeschi, Derek & The Dominos' "AnyDay" rose above much of the second set, representing a peak The Brothers were rarely able to hit this night and never sustained when they did. But they couldn't have had the first off-night of the tour in front of a more forgiving audience.
In marked contrast, the following night The Brothers offered as well-designed a choice of songs as a fan might imagine, all of it presented with increasingly expansive expertise through each successive tune. Of course, the logic of the concept wouldn't mean much without the proper execution, but the tone may well have been set early in the evening with three short set pieces emphasizing vocals: Gregg sounded noticeably more committed than during the previous evening, and there was a certain swagger in the band, too, as they moved through "Done Somebody Wrong, Midnight Rider and especially "Don't Keep Me Wonderin'.
But it was when Warren Haynes launched into his solo on "Rockin' Horse that the music genuinely took off. It was worth noting how here, as on the succeeding "Desdemona, bassist Burbridge faced off with the leader of Gov't Mule, catching his eye (and Derek Trucks' too!) across the stage to challenge him on his own instrument.
The audience response ratcheted up a notch by videos of 'Skydog Duane Allman and the late Allen Woody (why no footage of original bassist Berry Oakley?) on the rear-stage screen. The Bo Diddley burn of "No One to Run With remained throughout "Black Hearted Woman, in particular, when Haynes drove the band into a wicked turn through Grateful Dead's "The Other One. This transition constituted the first genuine surprise of the night, an element compounded by the return of Boston fave Susan Tedeschi. The salty blues singer acquitted herself extremely welland received her due recognition from the audience on Dylan's "Don't Think Twice It's Alright and a genuinely rousing rendition of The Band's "The Weight, rendered in the arrangement on which Duane Allman played for Aretha Franklin.
An impeccable reading of "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed might have been unnecessarily truncated had not a (mercifully brief) drum interlude given way to "Mountain Jam, during the melodious likes of which themes Haynes led The Allman Brothers through a couple bonecrushing minutes of Zeppelin's "Dazed and confused, a curveball first unveiled during this past spring's Beacon run.
The encore "One Way Out thus took on special meaning because, potent as it sounded, it couldn't be anything but anticlimactic following the thrilling likes of the immediately preceding thirty minutes alone. The roar of approval aimed at the stage when the music came to a stop rose above the intensity of the city's initial greeting to the Allman Brothers the night before. And it was wholly appropriate given what was tendered the prior two and a half hours.
August 8th's ABB performance should remind fans old (coming to their first concert in years??) and young (enticed by the precocious presence of Derek) why it's worth seeing this band in the first place.