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The Allman Brothers Band: Boston MA , December 3, 2011

Doug Collette By

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The Allman Brothers Band
Orpheum Theatre
Boston, MA
December 3, 2011

The Allman Brothers never disappoint. At the least, they are the epitome of professionalism in concert, and when they are inspired, as they sounded this fourth night at the Beantown venue, they (deeply) stir their audience and add to their own legacy, as well as that of contemporary blues.

In fact, it was on a straight blues number, Elmore James "The Sky Is Cryin,'" that The Brothers 2011 broke free into that rarified realm reached by the original lineup that set the standards for ABB configurations to come.

Guitarist/vocalist Warren Haynes, in his first vocal of the evening, sounded like he sang from his soul—almost as fervently as later in the evening, on Van Morrison's "Into The Mystic" and John Lennon's "Working Class Hero"—but guitarist Derek Trucks' solo pierced propelled and pounded its way into the heart of an audience that, while it was ready and willing to whoop it up for the band from the get-go, found themselves thrown into an absolute frenzy with the intensity of the (comparatively) young man's playing.

This was one of a few stop-in-your-tracks moments this Saturday night, in which the inclusion of never-before-played songs and rarely played material spun the band and its audience into a common space of elated reciprocal appreciation. It was terrific to hear The Allmans bust out bassist Oteil Burbridge's instrumental "Egypt," especially so because it grows in its tightly knit intricacy each time they play it. And there was a collective intake of breath when the band segued seamlessly into a subdued jazzy arrangement of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," as ABB offered it as though it were a regular part of the repertoire, designed to add pacing to the set, rather than an ever-so-rare surprise.

A reference to Jimi Hendrix also occurred right at the end of "Melissa," as it began the second set. Haynes teased the opening figure of "The Wind Cries Mary" just as he finished the tune with Gregg Allman on acoustic guitar, where Burbridge's bass lines shone as brightly and mobile as the guitarist's country-flavored solo. The audience sing-alongs and the words to "Revival" might sound trite sometimes —"people can you feel it? Love is everywhere!"— but not this early winter night.

In the Belfast Cowboy's "Into the Mystic," Haynes' emotive singing made the references to "goin' home" ring as true for a group finishing its abbreviated fall tour, as the line about "It's too late to stop now" confronted continuing rumors about The Allmans hanging it up any day now, after four-plus decades.

The unpredictable run-through of "Mountain Jam" that soon followed hinted why it may be premature for The Allman Brothers Band to call it quits, with Trucks, Haynes and Burbridge effectively lighting a fire within founding members Allman and drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe—and with percussionist Marc Quinones fanning those flames. The imagination with which they stretched the signature instrumental beyond its usual confines was equaled only by the way Haynes played the better part of the solo from Dickey Betts' "Blue Sky"—offered in its entirety the second night in Boston as part of a complete run-through of Eat a Peach (Capricorn, 1972)—during his solo segment on "Whipping Post." This, after Trucks committed an act of violence, and appropriately so, during his solo and just before Allman reached deep down inside to wail a conclusion even more driven than on "One Way Out." While the namesake of the band sounded tentative through much of this three-plus hours show, he came alive at the end.

Allman's acclamation of "We love you Boston! We'll see you again soon!" gave somewhat the lie to the finality within the finish of the encore, which also included a nod to John Lennon in the form of what was effectively a solo rendition of "Working Class Hero," from Haynes, to mark (near) the anniversary of The Beatles' death 31 years ago. The specter of untimely demise may always haunt The Allman Brothers, from the death of founder Duane Allman, in the fall of 1971, to the eerily similar accident that claimed the life of bassist Berry Oakley almost a year to the day later. But this band has always found a way to rise above tragedy, and now finds the rewards of its unwillingness to surrender in the transcendence that comes in the form of music like they played in the commonwealth this early winter night.


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