By Ed Masley
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 7 September 2004
Thirty-five years after redefining the improvisational limits of rock ‘n’ roll while expanding the music’s vocabulary with a debut album that set a new standard for what it could, in theory, mean to jam, the Allman Brothers Band reached back and recaptured the twin- guitar glory of “Dreams” and other awe-inspiring jam-rock classics Sunday at the Post-Gazette Pavilion.
They did it without benefit of either of the band’s original guitarists — Duane Allman, whose life and career were cut tragically short by a motorcycle accident in October ’71, and Dickey Betts, with whom they parted ways four years ago. But that’s to be expected when you bring in Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, two amazing guitarists who spent the night trading off solos, bobbing and weaving around each other’s licks and coming together, on occasion, in one of those unmistakable twin-guitar harmonies Allman Brothers fans have come to know and love.
Both guitarists play as if they were born with bottleneck slides for a finger, a turn of events that really came in handy on the encore — “Layla,” chosen in obvious tribute to the late, great Duane, whose slide guitar work made that song the classic it remains.
It wasn’t all about guitar, of course, although somebody really should have told the soundman that before he buried Gregg Allman’s piano on what’s often referred to as the “piano coda” of “Layla.” Allman didn’t solo much, but when he did, it proved a welcome counterpoint to all that lead guitar, especially the organ solo that bubbled up in the middle of “Stormy Monday,” which also proved to be perhaps his strongest, most impassioned vocal of the set — although he gave himself some pretty heavy competition in “Midnight Rider” (the opening song), “Dreams” and “Gambler’s Roll.”
As much as Allman’s vocals just sound better, more impassioned every year, he freely shared the mike with Haynes, who handled the vocals on “Rockin’ Horse,” the Santana-esque “Who’s Been Talking,” “Layla” and a soulful performance of “Dreams to Remember,” a tougher, less tearful rendition than the classic Otis Redding version.
The rhythm section, of course, has always been a vital part of the Allman sound, and Sunday night was no exception. Bassist Oteil Burbridge was solid throughout and made the most of his turn in the spotlight near the end of an epic 26-minute performance of “Mountain Jam,” which was shorter than the album version, for those of you keeping score at home. And, yes, the drummers soloed, too, as is tradition, taking an 8-minute drum and percussion break in the middle of a raucous “One Way Out.”
In addition to handling all those vocals in the Allmans’ set, Haynes opened the show with a solo acoustic performance. Highlights ranged from the gutbucket slide-guitar blues of “It Hurts Me Too” to a soulful reading of the Allman Brothers’ “Soulshine.”
Pop music critic Ed Masley can be reached at emasley@post- gazette.com or 412-263-1865.
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