By: A.P. Kryza
For the State News
“The Allman Brothers rock,” said East Lansing resident Nate Foster as he waited eagerly to see the band Tuesday night at Common Ground. And despite some rain before the show, Foster remained excited to see the band.
“I’ve never seen them before, it’s going to be sweet,” he said. “It should be a good time, everyone loves a good summer rain.” The light rain cleared as the legendary Allman Brothers Band took the stage, opening with a mellow, jammed-out rendition of the crowd-pleasing “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More.”
The southern jam-rock group has stood the test of time as one of the most consistently popular acts in music, and Tuesday’s performance was a testament to the fact. Playing old favorites like “Midnight Rider” as well as an arsenal of traditional blues and new material, the six-piece group was having a visibly good time, making frequent eye contact, giving head nods and giggling to their music.
But it took the band a minute to get the ball rolling. “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” had a decidedly mellow pace, a few missed stops and noticeable lack of energy at the beginning. It seemed as though the group was not giving it their all.
But that premonition went out the window around sundown as the group’s extremely psychedelic light-show began and the band took the bull by the horns. Relative Allman’s newcomer Warren Haynes, formerly of Gov’t Mule, took the bull by the horns during a rendition of his song “Soulshine.” Hayne’s aggressive guitar style helped breathe new life into the band’s set with soaring solos and a general’s command on newer tunes such as “The High Cost of Low Living.”
“James Brown has renounced his title as the hardest working man in rock ‘n’ roll and he’s given it to Warren Haynes,” Lansing resident Liz Fulk said.
As the sun went down, a heavier rain pounded down on the audience. Many staked umbrellas into the ground, while others fled for cover. But the weather did not deter many fans, who saw the open area left by those who fled as a massive dance floor. And as the evening progressed, the band continued to loosen their ties, getting more and more into the music.
Larry McCray, who nearly stole the show from Boston when he opened for the band Monday, joined the Allmans for a rocking rendition of the traditional blues tune “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.” Trading licks with Allman guitarist and 22-year-old prodigy Derek Trucks, McCray’s skillful presence made the song into an eclectic, beautiful jam accompanied by Haynes’ gritty blues vocals. The extended song launched the band into an extended blues-based jam session, which was received by exuberant cheers from the audience.
But the show’s real highlight came at the set’s finale. A good portion of the crowd dispersed by falling rain, the back of the lawn became something of a dance-fest to a number of bare-footed fans who remained undeterred by the weather. Throwing caution to the wind, the band launched into a powerhouse rendition of Donovan’s “Mountain Jam,” a balls-to-the-wall jam session which showcased each member of the band’s immense talents.
The young Derek Trucks picked away at his guitar like an old pro, while Gregg Allman, pounding away at his piano, proved exactly why the band has been around for three decades with his masterful, harmonious blend of sonic improvisation and disciplined leadership.
As the music bounded up and down in tempo, the stringed instruments faded out in order for the audience to fully realize what an asset it is to have three drummers in your rhythm section. A jaw-dropping drum section filled the air, drawing more screams from the crowd than anything else in the set.
By the time “Mountain Jam” was finished, the boys had already proven themselves, but to add icing to the cake they took to the stage once more to play a quick version of the crowd-pleasing “Revival.”
At the end of the show, one thing was certain – the Allman Brothers Band is still a force to be reckoned with. If they put half as much energy into their July 27 show at DTE Energy Music Theater, the show will be worth well more than the price of admission.