by James A. Karis II
23 August 2004 – Worcester Telegram & Gazette
MANSFIELD – The stars of the show weren’t named Allman, but that didn’t keep the Allman Brothers Band from delivering a blistering 2- 1/2 hours of southern-steeped blues Saturday night at the Tweeter Center.
Backed by a three-man percussion section, dueling guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks traded soulful licks and frantic solos for a crowd that braved severe thunderstorms to find itself – after the skies had cleared – warmed by a fire on stage.
Founding member and singer/songwriter Gregg Allman, who was also in fine form, understands that his band is built from the ground up – on sheets of percussion and guitar virtuosity.
With a cool swagger, a ponytailed Allman walked onto the stage and sat behind his Hammond organ like a man who knows he’s a legend, knows the audience knows he’s a legend, and doesn’t need to be the focal point of every song to prove it. Instead, his deep, yearning voice and moody organ shared the spotlight with his guitarists, who stood beside each other at center stage the entire night.
Since the 1971 death of original guitarist Duane Allman, the band has seen a number of incarnations, settling on Haynes, who is on his second tour of duty with the band, and Trucks, the 22-year-old wunderkind son of drummer Butch Trucks.
The two produce similar results, but their styles are different.
While the youthful Trucks closes his eyes and plays almost effortlessly – allowing his fingers to glide over the neck of his guitar – Haynes plays his instrument like a man dying of thirst would squeeze an orange half – intent on extracting every drop of juice.
The musical chemistry of the group was evident from the first notes of the opening number, “Mountain Jam,” a sprawling instrumental featuring the weaving percussion of Jaimoe, Marc Quinones and the elder Trucks, Allman’s ambient organ chords and the six-string vitriol of the two guitarists. Oteil Burbridge’s bass added yet another dimension to the seven-piece band, creating the dense sound of a psychedelic apocalypse.
While the Allman Brothers Band has recorded more than a few radio- friendly tunes (“Ramblin’ Man” being the most famous) over its 35-year history, its reputation has been cemented with legendary live jams reaching and exceeding 30 minutes, with several of these often occurring in a single set. While the playing was decidedly more muscular Saturday, the focus clearly was on the instrumentation – with joyous, soul-drenched tones ruling the night.
The few in the audience who may have been sitting were on their feet as soon as the band broke into “Midnight Rider.” The show climaxed with the sleepy organ and squealing guitars of “Dreams” and closed with an extended version of “Whipping Post” as the encore.
For most of the set, surreal imagery – kaleidoscopic Buddhas, alligators and mushrooms swirling within a multicolored cosmic wormhole – danced across a large screen behind the band.
The Boston-based, three-piece band The Slip opened, providing just under an hour’s worth of adequate, if uneven, neo-space grunge.
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