By: Dave Richards
For: The Times News
Rows of classic cars lined downtown Erie for Buggin’ State night on Friday. Inside the Warner Theatre, classic rock of epic proportions unfolded courtesy of the legendary Allman Brothers Band, who did their mighty best to rename the evening Jammin’ State.
Before a smaller-than-expected yet boisterous crowd of 1,400, the Allman Brothers delivered a sharp, sizzling set. This was the band’s first concert in more than a month, but they came out smoking from the get-go on “Hot ‘Lanta,” sounding fresh and energized.
That pleased Allman fan Matt Chase of Erie.
“First show after a month off – I was a little concerned,”Chase said. “But not a lot of rust. They’ve been like a pair of shoes, just strap them on and go to work. It’s been just awesome.”
This was also the Allman Brothers’ second show at the Warner in Erie in just 13 months. But instead of trotting out the same material, they delivered virtually an entirely different set, one that featured more funk and up-tempo rock than the blues-soaked 2005 set. They repeated just three songs -“Statesboro Blues,””Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’,” and “Trouble No More.”
“A little different than last year – a lot more jams,” Chase said. “But it’s really good. Last year’s show was awesome. This one’s pretty good. There’s not a lot of songs I know but it’s still pretty awesome, real jamming and I’m glad I came.”
Brandon Schanz – who came with his father, Erie artist Fran Schanz – was also glad, which surprised him. He’d never seen the Allman Brothers.
“I came here (as a) ‘Let’s go to a concert’ kind of a thing. And I’m amazed. It’s a good concert,” Brandon Schanz said. “They remind me of Dave Matthews a lot, just because of how they jam. But it’s different. Different voices. There’s more to it.”
There’s history, of course. The Allmans released their first CD way back in 1969. But unlike a lot of ancient artists who trot out rote versions of hits, night after night, the Allmans have stayed vital and relevant with their epic jams and instrumental interplay.
“When it started out, I was like, ‘Well, I don’t want to hear a dinosaur,'” said Fran Schanz. “And then, all of a sudden, the dinosaur starts to roar. It becomes something mesmerizing.”
Much credit for that goes to Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes, Allmans’ superhero guitar team, and perhaps the best dynamic duo since Batman and Robin. Friday, Trucks and Haynes lit the Warner, taking incendiary solos that built to shattering, piercing climaxes. Trucks especially shined on slide guitar, while Haynes – who also sang lead on several cuts – worked his guitar like a madman, playing with an earthy soulfulness. At times, he stood there as if possessed, his face shaking, his body trembling while he played.
Haynes’ galvanizing “Woman Across the River” was a tour-de-force highlight that brought the crowd to its feet. And the first-set closing “Revival”- an early Allmans’ classic -practically left scorch marks on the stage.
Of course, the Allmans’spiritual leader remains keyboardist Gregg Allman, who presides over the stage like a jovial grandfather. His gruff, authoritative, yet soulful voice still packs power; the man is simply still into it, all these years later.
Friday’s funk-fortified show allowed bassist Otiel Burbridge to stretch out; he took a couple solo spins, unlike last year’s show. Other songs -especially “Who’s Been Talking”- and Haynes'”Same Thing” also accentuated the Allmans’ triple-heavy percussive section, giving them a Santana-like feel.
Brandon Schanz, 29, came away impressed from his first-time Allmans’ experience.
“They’re great,” he said. “It’s not an everyday kind of a concert. They’re more than you would expect. I’m amazed.”
DAVE RICHARDS can be reached at 870-1703 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.