July 10, 2005
By: Bob Keyes
AUGUSTA — Friday night was the first chance fans in Maine have had to see the reformed Allman Brothers Band, minus Dickey Betts. The verdict: Stunning.
With Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks manhandling the guitars, the current version of the Allman Brothers is every bit as meaty and tasty as it was when Betts and Haynes helped revive the group a decade ago. It’s very different to be sure – gone are Betts’ luscious melodies and soothing vocals.
But music shouldn’t be a popularity contest, and it’s not whether this version of the band is better than another. The question is whether this version of the band can maintain – or preferably, advance – the Allman Brothers Band credibility as one of America’s most influential and still-vital rock bands.
The answer became obvious from the get-go: Resoundingly yes.
The band came on at about 9 p.m., following a mildly interesting opening set by Gavin Degraw. The Augusta Civic Center was filled almost to capacity. A large portion of the crowd appeared to have come of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when the Allman Brothers Band laid its roots, although there was a healthy mix of young folks, as well.
The current lineup includes Gregg Allman on organ and vocals, drummers Butch Trucks and Jay Johanny “Jaimoe” Johnson, percussionist Marc Quinones and bass player Oteil Burbridge, with Haynes and Derek Trucks on guitar.
Derek is Butch’s son, and with his lineage and background – he presumably grew up on the road with the band – he has sufficient credibility to slide right in. In other words, he’s no hired hand. He’s blood.
The band ripped hard from the start, popping out lovely versions of “Come and Go Blues,” “No One to Run With,” “Midnight Rider” and, later in the set, “Statesboro Blues.”
Allman was in fine voice, and Haynes ably stepped up for a spine-chilling cover of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.”
But the band earned its nickel during many extended jams. Haynes and Trucks danced with each other with their guitars, challenging, tempting and pushing each other to take the next step.
As a tandem, they’re deliciously fun to watch, because they never let up and never take a lazy solo. They may not always hit home runs – some of the jams bordered on esoteric – but they are never boring.
Following the set-ending “Whipping Post,” the show let out just before midnight, nearly three hours after it began.
By then, we had our answer. The Allman Brothers Band will get along just fine without Dickey Betts.