By: Gina Vivinetto
St. Petersburg Times
CLEARWATER — The Allman Brothers Band invited 2,149 fans at Saturday’s spectacular sold-out show at Ruth Eckerd Hall to join it in its newest incarnation — and it’s a doozy. Founding members keyboardist Gregg Allman and drummer Butch Trucks, who got the band going in 1969 with Gregg’s late brother Duane, are still in the fold, but some younger fellows are hogging up that stage front.
That’s Butch’s nephew Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes on dual guitars. Their magical interplay jumpstarted Hot ‘Lanta, the show’s opener. The momentum built over the next two and a half hours. Trucks, 23, is known as something of a guitar wunderkind. He’s been on stages since he was 11 and has been with the Allman Brothers Band since 1999. Haynes, of the jam band Govt Mule, has replaced the volatile Dickey Betts who was dismissed from band two years ago. (With Betts’ departure comes the absence of the tunes he wrote such as the hit Rambling Man.)
Allman, 54, was in fine form, looking rejuvenated, even a bit mainstream. That is, until he turned to the side and one could see his long blonde ponytail was still intact. Allman’s bluesy growl was strong and his legendary organ playing filled tunes such as Blackhearted Woman and Leave My Blues At Home with emotion.
The Allman Brothers Band made its mark in American music for blending blues, R&B, and gospel music into gutbucket rock, churning with feeling, drive and a restless, expansive nature. The band’s songs stretch sometimes to a half hour. By its very nature, the Allman’s music is an amoeba, always the same and always different, occupying space as the players see fit. That’s why even the new guys Haynes and the younger Trucks can step in and give their unique twists to Midnight Rider, Dreams and the epic jam Whipping Post without risk. Both guitarists are up to the task. That is, both guitarists blazed Saturday, trading licks, harmonizing, alternating between squelchy leads and fine, clean lines of guitar ribbon. Trucks’ slide guitar is something to behold. He knows it, too. Did you catch him grinning here and there?
The elder Trucks played the devil out of his kit, decorated with a huge stuffed animal frog. As always, Jaimoe Jai Johanny sat beside him on a second kit and a third percussionist, Marc Quinones, played conga drums and bongoes. Heard the expression a wall of sound? These were drums to build buildings on, sturdy and thick.
The show began with a dynamite set by the younger Trucks’ other project, the Derek Trucks Band. Standout moments included those featuring magical mayhem by keyboardist/flutist Kofi Burbridge and a guest vocal spot by Trucks’ wife, blues singer Susan Tedeschi.
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