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The 2017 Laid Back Festival: In The Spirit of Gregg Allman at The Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater

Mike Perciaccante By

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Next up on the main stage was Steve Winwood. Winwood has been delivering his tasty brew of rock, pop, blue-eyed soul, rhythm and blues, blues and jazz for over fifty years. His set was short on songs but long in length. Winwood somehow managed to fit songs that touched on virtually all aspects of his extensive catalog and career into his hour and fifteen minute slot. He visited his time with the Spencer Davis Group on "I'm A Man" and the set closer "Gimme Some Loving." His days in the supergroup Blind Faith were represented by "Can't Find My Way Home" and "Had To Cry Today." The Buddy Miles-penned "Them Changes," recorded by Winwood and Eric Clapton on 2009's Live from Madison Square Garden (Duck/Reprise Records), was an early show-stopper that received a raucous round of applause. Winwood visited his solo career with "Fly" from Nine Lives (Columbia Records, 2008) and "Higher Love" from Back in the High Life (Island Records, 1986). Stunning jamband performances of Traffic's "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys," "Empty Pages" and the set-closing tour-de-force "Dear Mr. Fantasy" were the highlights of his amazing performance. At the end of his set, the audience who had spent the show singing along and bopping to the music rewarded the 69-year-old legend with a well-deserved standing ovation.

Scott Sharrard & The Brickyard Band were fittingly the last act of the evening on the Low Country Stage. From 2008 until Gregg Allman's passing, Sharrard was the lead guitarist and musical director of the Gregg Allman Band. His set began with him reminiscing about Allman, their relationship and how they had shared the big stage at the previous year's festival. Following his tribute, his set, which featured high-energy southern rock, bluesy rock and old-fashioned rock 'n' roll had the audience feeling the spirit of late icon.

As afternoon gave way to evening and the sun began to set, the crowd at the main stage began to get larger. With the fans filing into their seats, the level of anticipation was high. Jackson Browne would soon be delivering an hour-and-a-half set of his best loved songs.

Browne hit the stage and immediately got into gear with the strong combination of "The Barricades of Heaven," "You Love the Thunder" and "Fountain of Sorrow." The set proceeded with "The Long Way Around," "I'm Alive" from the album of the same name (Elektra Records, 1992) and "For Everyman."

Browne then took a moment to get serious. He stated that he was honored to have been asked by Allman to play at the festival. The version of "Melissa" that followed served as a touching and well-deserved eulogy to the late singer. Other highlights of the concert included "Doctor My Eyes," "These Days," a special request from an audience member—"Rock Me on the Water" and a spine-tingling version of "Take It Easy" (which, though known by most as an Eagles song, was actually written by Browne with some assistance from Glenn Frey and released by Browne on his 1973 Asylum Records albumFor Everyman).

Browne, who vowed to keep playing until festival's predetermined cut off time, was able to include only one more song. The last song of the evening was "Lady Of The Well." His legion of fans were thrilled and generally happy, though some were heard grumbling that they would have liked to have heard more classic such as "Lawyers In Love," "Before The Deluge," "Stay," "Rosie," "Boulevard" and "The Pretender."

The festival again was a complete success. A multi-generational and multi-cultural fanbase joined together to celebrate the life of Gregg Allman. The musicians delivered professional, sweet and wonderful sets and tributes. Although he has passed, Allman's soul and presence was felt throughout the festival grounds and in the performances.

Though the thermometer readings in the Long Island region were well into the 90s (an anomaly for late September), the temperatures at the Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater were a tad lower and much more pleasant due to a friendly breeze off the water. The combination of good music, good food, cold refreshments and a lively, engaged audience made for a fantastic festival. Let's hope that the organizers continue to bring the festival back as a yearly event.

Photo Credit: Christine Connallon
[Additional article contributions by Christine Connallon].

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