By: Lawrence Specker
For: Everything Alabama
Gregg Allman gave a quick deep chuckle, when asked how many generations of people he sees in the crowd at an appearance by the Allman Brothers Band.
“Probably three,” he said. “We see these old hippies (that are) bald-headed on top, but around the sides’ll be all real long, down to their shoulders. And they’ll have a kid on their shoulders, a little toddler.”
“Whereas it used to be, ‘Hey man, would you sign this for my kid?’ Now it’s ‘Would you sign this for my Dad?’ Ohhhh — that used to be a hard one to take, but I kind of took in my stride.”
The three-generation rule probably will hold on Wednesday, when the Allman Brothers Band plays The Amphitheater at The Wharf in Orange Beach along with Phil Lesh & Friends.
Given that Lesh made his name as the bassist for the Grateful Dead, it’s probably safe to say that he brings multiple generations to the party as well.
Allman said he definitely feels that Lesh brings in a different crowd, albeit one that generally appreciates both groups.
“It rounds out pretty nice,” he said of the bill. “Sometimes some of them will come up and jam with us. Some of us will go up and jam with them. But we’ve never sat down and rehearsed anything.”
To judge from setlists of recent shows posted at phillesh.net, Lesh’s shows are dominated by tunes from the extensive Grateful Dead catalog, with some Bob Dylan and classic rock songs from other artists mixed in. Lesh and his younger bandmates have regularly hit standards such as “Box of Rain,” “Friend of the Devil,” “Sugar Magnolia” and “Truckin’,” but don’t seem to feel compelled to deliver any of them on any given evening.
The Allmans, of course, have an equally vast career to draw on, with highlights including “Melissa,” “Whipping Post,” “Rambling Man” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.”
And while they might not be quite as improvisational as the Dead, they certainly have their own tradition of mixing it up. Allman promised “lots and lots and lots of surprises, man, that I can’t really let you in on.”
“I mean, if we played the same songs in the same order every night, it would become a job, you know,” he said. “We do things like, in the middle of ‘Black Hearted Woman’ we’ll segue into ‘Dazed and Confused.’ And we play ‘Layla’ sometimes — that’s all I’m going to tell you, sorry.”
According to allmanbrothersband.com, the group’s current lineup consists of Allman on vocals and organ, Butch Trucks on drums and percussion, Jaimoe on drums, Marc Quinones on percussion, Oteil Burbridge on bass and Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes on lead and slide guitar.
To say the band has had some lineup changes is an understatement — the site lists twelve former members, starting with Allman’s legendary brother Duane, who died in a 1971 motorcycle wreck — but Allman said the unit is solid.
“Since we got rid of our bone of contention, I’ll just call it that,” he said, apparently referring to the 2000 ousting of guitarist Dickie Betts, “everything’s gotten back down to relaxed, where it should be. It’s fun again. And I like that. I really do.”
Allman said he hopes that pays off for the audience.
He said he imagined the band’s role this way: If it plays for an audience of 20,000, and each person out there has one problem on his or her mind, that’s 20,000 problems.
“But, for about five hours, we’re going to make em forget about those problems,” he said. “‘Cause they’re going to be busy shaking their bootie and having a good time. And that’s what music is about.”
Wednesday’s show starts at 6:30 p.m., with gates opening at 5:30. Ticket prices range from $29.50 to $59.50; tickets are available through Ticketmaster.
For information, visit thewharfal.com or call 224-1000.