The Allman Brothers Band
The Beacon Theatre
New York City
It's a special pleasure to see The Allman Brothers Band more than one night for a number of reasons. If you're a fan, you can't get enough of the Brothers pure and simple. If you're new to the group, and they play to their capabilities, another evening with...helps you be sure you weren't imagining the first. And for all attendees of an Allmans concert, particularly during their annual run in NYC at The Beacon Theatre, you can be fairly sure you're not gong to get many repeated selections plus which, the chance of surprise runs high at these shows.
The Allman Brothers now use their spring dates in the Big Apple to test new songs, covers and arrangements for their dates later in the year during the summer swings and festival appearances as are happening this year. As the band took the stage the evening of the 17th after a night off during this year's ten-date run, they radiated the confidence of band that knows exactly what they want to do. They played with the authority of a group unafraid to test themselves, their material and their audience, confident as well the risks would pay off.
And pay off they did as ABB gave a hearty two-set performance brimming with intensity and ingenuity, all of which they parlayed this particular night, without including some of their most famous material"Liz Reed," "Whipping Post," Mountain Jam"usually used for their most exploratory improvisations. Instead, the septet built the momentum of the performance in such as way that virtually each individual in the band seemed to be its one and only star at various junctures during the evening.
Gregg Allman grabbed attention from the very start of the first selection "Done Somebody Wrong." The depth of emotion in his voice combined with the abandoned inflections he lent to his phrasing were startling to behold given his age, history, tenure with the band and, last but not least, the length of time he's been performing this tune (virtually the band's entire 35-plus year career). The singing by the namesake of the band wasn't much less memorable on "Wasted Words: or "Come and Go Blues," but only outshone in relative terms by the performance(s) of other members in the group: Bassist Oteil Burbridge, for instance, bounced the former tune up and down as if on a trampoline by his increasingly deep yet fluid runs (the sound improved dramatically in the first half-hour, even turning louder during the second set).
There is no overstating how guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks continue to astound. Alternately shimmering and shredding, the pair this evening displayed a dual empathy as musicians that's grown even since last year. They completed each others' phrases on "I Walk on Gilded Splinters" and, during the second set, ante'd up even further during "Key to the Highway. " In a remarkable showing of eminently healthy ego, neither Warren nor Derek tries to outplay the other but only ratchet up the intricacy of their solos, whether straight or in call?"and-response, in service of a song such as "Desdemona" (tellingly one of ABB's newer originals from 2003's Hittin' the Note CD. )
Like fire and ice, Haynes and Trucks represent opposite ends of the spectrum in their respective styles, but have learned to complement each other in an almost mystical manner which is no doubt why the new Allman instrumental, "Egypt," will become embroidered with more detail and more drama the more often the group plays it; in comparing the versions from just these two nights, the brothers are coming to play it with more panache each new performance.
By the time Warren wrung every possible ounce of feeling from his fretboard during his solo on "Rockin' Horse,"hitting and holding one perfect note for almost twenty seconds to begin one solo you had to wonder how The Allmans would end their second set and their Beacon show this evening, given heir penchant for near-overwhelming climaxes. Thus, "One Way Out," with guest trombonist Dick Griffin, was in keeping with their past in more than one respect: a reliably familiar tune to finish and thus place an indelible memory in their audiences mind, simultaneously including a collaborator in the mix, as is the wont during these stretches at the Beacon, to make that memory unique. Thus the final instrumental exchanges weren't the smoothest, at least on Griffin's part, but the wail Gregg let loose before the band slammed it to a close recalled his introductory vocal three hours previous---the circle will be unbroken, you might say.