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A Modern Day Appreciation of the Allman Brothers Band

Doug Collette By

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During the 2009 40th anniversary celebration, at the year's Beacon Theatre run as well as during the summer tour, The Allman Brothers Band paid rightful homage to the group's founder. And deservedly so, for the guitarist's drive to form and sustain the band was such that it carried them, with no little momentum through the period immediately following his death as documented on Macon City Auditorium: 2/11/72 )Peach, 2004)all the way to a reconfiguration of the group circa Brothers and Sisters (Capricorn, 1973) that achieved mainstream commercial success without compromising their roots or their highly-improvisational musicianship (during the course of which unfortunately the Brothers lost bassist Berry Oakley in the throes of mourning his mentor)..

Such a mature forward-thinking attitude hasn't always been the bellwether of the Allman Brothers during the course of their history and 2014, most unfortunately, was no exception. An overt lack of strong leadership the likes of which led to the embarrassingly clumsy exit of founder guitarist Dickey Betts from the band in 2000, also tainted the later years, including an all-too familiar and eerily similar sequence of events leading to the rescheduling of canceled spring 2014 Beacon shows to the fall.

Fallout from those circumstances generated more than a little apprehension as to whether those would actually happen as in the wake of Gregg Allman reportedly stricken with bronchitis in the spring, later in the season and during the summer (when no final group tour happened?!?!), rumors of health issues self-avowed and otherwise dogged the namesake of group, all prior to an injury he suffered in a golf cart accident. Appropriate as might've been for a band that almost obsessively eschewed self-created melodrama, the resulting absence of a summer jaunt, serving as glorious anticipation of their retirement, seemed irresponsible at worst and insensitive at best.

Yet near the end of the final fall show, no doubt moved by the profundity of the occasion-whether an Allman Brothers Band ever appears again or not is subject to debate inside and outside the community-when the moment of truth arrives these Brothers played with a fire commensurate to the dramatic turning point the show represents, particularly appropriate in the light of the farewell comments Gregg Allman offers at show's end as he reflects upon the extended history of the Allman Brothers, and then introduces the final number, Muddy Waters' "Trouble No More," as the very first number the band every played when he joined the ensemble his brother had assembled in 1969.

What's remarkable is that this tune of the blues Buddha's is almost anti-climactic in a longer sequence of songs, begun slightly less than an hour prior, during which the group slowly but surely generates momentum the likes of which has always distinguished their best shows no matter the lineup. The patient but rabid audience offers instant recognition of the instrumental introduction to "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" as the ABB segue into it after a "Mountain Jam" as authoritative as it is melodious, while the both of the final two numbers the ensemble plays, "Whipping Post" and "Trouble No More," carry an autobiographical resonance, no a vengeance, hard to miss: the depth of emotion the septet exhibits in this interval had been curiously (or perhaps not?) absent from their musicianship for most of this evening (and, by most accounts, the prior five nights) and its the impact carries even greater force as the group, in perhaps the most resounding acknowledgment and tribute to Duane Allman, plays past midnight of show date to bring this marathon performance to a close on the anniversary of his tragic death October 29th.

If the many years leading up to these rarefied experiences on the stage of the Beacon was exactly the stuff of Hollywood cinema (ABB were the product of the American south above all else), there could hardly have been a more fitting finale for the Allman Brothers Band than this one. It is, as is all the greatest music, absolutely timeless.


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