The most stirring moments of the Allman Brothers Band's concert recording from New York City's Beacon Theatre on October 28, 2014 occur near the end of its nearly four-hour performancenot surprisingly, within a rendition of the group's signature instrumental, "Mountain Jam"that are as emphatic as they are mellifluous. The patient but rabid audience offers instant recognition of the instrumental introduction to "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," after which the intonation in Gregg Allman
's voice, as he begins to sing, triggers a flood of emotion, the moving likes of which has been curiously absent from thisperhaps the last concert ever by this iconic Southern ensemble.
Over the course of the prior three-plus hours contained on four CDs, the group smolders continuously and threatens to catch fire as it offers virtually every tune a fan would want to hear from its repertoireexcept, perhaps, Dickey Betts' glorious instrumental "Jessica," as conspicuous by its absence as its author. Yet curiouslyor perhaps notthose moments the septet comes closest to bursting into flame are not standards like "Dreams," "Don't Keep Me Wonderin'" or "Ain't Wastin' Time No More"; rather, it's a jam on the Grateful Dead
's "The Other One," as the coda of "Black Hearted Woman," that stretches the whole group as much as it does Warren Haynes
and Derek Trucks
, the two guitarists reaching upward in their spiraling interplay near the end of co-founding guitarist Betts' other famous tune, "Blue Sky," which, in its mention of "Goin' to Carolina," clearly carries meaning for Haynes, the native son and leader of Gov't Mule
In a very real way, this final ABB concert is an eerily accurate mirror image of this group's time together. Played at co-founding guitarist Duane Allman
aka Skydog's 1971 funeral by the surviving five ABB membersand explored on previous nights during this second and final Beacon run of 2014no doubt brought home the truth of the occasion to all seven musicians onstage and, in turn, explains why and how the final numbers played reflect their feelings about their shared career and these moments of closure.
The near-silences within this "Whipping Post" point up its otherwise white-hot frenzy, with Haynes and Trucks a collective reminder as to why the main attraction of ABB shows in its later years was the sublime opportunity to watch and hear them complement each other in such uncanny ways. In its own way, this contemporary blues carries more than a little autobiographical meaning for them and, perhaps even more so, the final selection, "Trouble No More"introduced by the band's only remaining namesake, Gregg Allman
, as the very first song the original Allman Brothers ever played together.
Speculation on the the source of abandon in this performance of Muddy Waters' song is less important than the palpable sensation of personal exorcism as Allman caterwauls his vocal as if he wrote the words, the Haynes/Trucks fretboard axis redefining the concept of "slash and burn" and the rhythm section showcasing an intricacy often lost in later years (despite a minor stumble at the breakdown). Often creating an on-stage ambiance, a plush sound mix here allows Oteil Burbridge's bass a prominenceand Butch Trucks, Jaimoe and Marc Quiñones' percussion a presenceit didn't always receive within the confines of the venue. At the same time, its uniform clarity belies the package's stylized artwork that carries no distinction of the profundity of this occasion (merely an essay on the show from the ABB merch site would suffice?)
But, then, published (see Alan Paul's book, One Way Out
(St. Martin's Lress), released in both hard and softcover in early 2014) and unpublished accounts of friction and frustration within the ABB ranks across its 45 years of existence also manifests itself in their business operations, including slipshod archiving more egregious than this. Yet it's during moments such as these that the Allman Brothers Band's playing renders such factors inconsequential. And if the previous months of the 2014 tour didn't allow for a truly triumphant climax to one of the most influential careers in contemporary blues rock, this final thirty minutes, taking place early in the morning of the anniversary of their founding father's tragic demise, delivers a more fitting finality than the band might have otherwise devised.
CD1: Little Martha; Mountain Jam; Don't Want You No More > It's Not My Cross to Bear;
One Way Out; Good Morning Little Schoolgirl; Midnight Rider; High Cost of Low Living;
Hot 'Lanta; Blue Sky; You Don't Love Me. CD2: Statesboro Blues; Ain't Wastin’ Time No
More; Black Hearted Woman; The Sky is Crying; Dreams. CD3: Don't Keep Me
Wonderin'; In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed; JaMaBuBu; In Memory of Elizabeth Reed –
reprise. CD4: Melissa; Revival; Southbound; Mountain Jam – reprise > Will The Circle
Be Unbroken? > Mountain Jam - reprise 2; Whipping Post; Trouble No More.
Gregg Allman: Hammond B-3 organ, piano, acoustic guitar, vocals; Butch Trucks:
drums, tympani; Jaimoe: drums, Warren Haynes: lead and slide guitar, vocals; Derek
Trucks: lead and slide guitar; Oteil Burbridge: bass, vocals; Marc Quinones: congas,