By Malcom X Abram
The Macon Telegraph
It was my intention to catch all three of the acts – Susan Tedeschi, Phil
Lesh and Friends and the Allman Brothers Band – performing last Sunday
at Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheatre, which you may recall was still called
Lakewood Amphitheatre last time the Brothers played there in Atlanta in
Hmmm … Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheatre. Sounds much more inviting than
Lakewood, doesn’t it? Kinda makes ya want to go out and by a car stereo
or DVD player, right?
As I said, I’d hoped to see everyone, but by the time I got through all the
traffic on Interstate 75 (a helicopter landed on the freeway!) and found a
place to park ($20!) and made the lengthy walk to the actual amphitheater,
Ms. Tedeschi had already played and Phil Lesh and his Friends were
already well into their set.
Despite my Bay Area origins, my knowledge of Grateful Dead tunes is
based more on aural osmosis (various Grateful Dead Hours on the radio,
New Year’s Eve television specials) than any sustained study of the band’s
music. And my only live Dead experience was a concert at Oakland’s
Henry J. Kaiser Center sometime in the ’80s that I frankly, uhh, don’t recall
So, all I can tell you about their set (which lasted well over two hours) was
that both guitarists Jimmy Herring and Warren “Marathon Man” Haynes
played well, and bassist/leader Phil Lesh takes a back seat to no one. His
bass lines twisted and turned as much as the guitarists, with drummer John
Molo and keyboardist Rob Barraco just as active. Their jams rolled and
tumbled freely, with grooves that gradually transformed from one song/jam
into another and sometimes back again. The three-part harmonies were
consistently tight (I’d love to hear them sing “Attics of My Life”), and I did
recognize a laid-back “Sugaree” as well as a Susan Tedeschi sung “Turn on
Your Lovelight” and an encore reggae take on Warren’s “Soulshine.”
The presence of Phil & Friends seemed to ratchet up the neo-hippie
quotient considerably, and if you were looking for a party, then the outer
reaches of the amphitheater lawn was the place to be. From my seat, I
could see a dazzling array of colorful clothing with wet arms and legs
sticking out, joyfully squirming and squiggling to the music while the stench
of spilled beer mixed freely with the aroma of various grades of cheeba,
cigarettes and mud, mud, mud.
Speaking of mud, I’d like to take a quick break to talk about hygiene. I
realize that part of the neo-hippie aesthetic has to do with being one with
Mamma Earth and all that, but really, people, there’s no good reason to
walk barefoot into a men’s room anywhere, at any time, ever.
Anyway, at 9 p.m. sharp, the Brothers took the stage, and the first thing
that occurred to me was that the front four (Gregg Allmann, Derek Trucks,
Warren Haynes and Oteil Burbridge) appeared to stand closer to one
another than the front four of 1999.
They started with an uplifting “Revival,” went into “Statesboro Blues,” with
the entire audience singing along, and kept the momentum going with
“Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’.” Then Derek and Warren engaged in a great
little unaccompanied slide duel, with each playing a few blues-filled notes
and throwing it back and forth with a natural telepathy. That led into a
Warren-sung “Hootchie-Cootchie Man.”
Then Gregg introduced Chuck Leavell to play on a new song called
“Desdemona,” a slow blues tune with a jazzy middle section in 3/4, just right
for Leavell to turn in a typically great solo. Naturally, “Jessica” came next,
and with Chuck playing a gospel-tinged solo, nobody seemed to mind the
absence of the song’s author.
Throughout the lengthy set, the band’s energy level was high. And despite
having already played nearly three hours, Warren never repeated himself,
and I have yet to hear Derek have a bad set.
Among the guests brought out were Widespread Panic/New School Gov’t
Mule’s Dave Schools and Jimmy Herring and percussionist Count M’Butu,
who all contributed to a funky set closing, “One Way Out.”
During the requisite break before the encore, lighters, flashlights and laser
pointers filled the amphitheater (that tradition never gets old), and when the
band returned and Derek played the first few notes of “Mountain Jam,” the
crowd erupted. Chuck returned to play a rather angular, speedy solo, and
Oteil amazed the crowd with a beautiful, unaccompanied bass arrangement
of “Georgia On My Mind,” which all led back to another fine slide duel,
complete with Warren imitating bird calls and other odd sounds, bringing it
all to a satisfying close 28 minutes later.
– Malcolm X Abram is the entertainment writer for The Macon Telegraph.
He can be reached at 744-4251 or by email at email@example.com