By: Tom Kielty
For: The Boston Herald
Fans at Mansfield’s Comcast Center knew what they were in for Saturday during a double bill featuring the rejuvenated Allman Brothers Band and Grateful Dead alum Bob Weir’s Ratdog. Attendees were happily submerged in a vat containing four hours of jam and most of the near-capacity crowd left with ear-to-ear grins.
The Allmans/Dead history goes all the way back to a legendary 1973 collaboration on the Brothers’ “Mountain Jam” at New York’s Watkins Glen Speedway (on a bill that also included the Band). Time has taken its toll on both acts, with Weir’s Ratdog moving to the forefront of his career following the 1995 death of Dead guitarist and icon Jerry Garcia, and Allmans keyboardist/singer Gregg Allman winning a recent bout with hepatitis C. Back on tour, both proved true warriors of the road in separate two-hour sets.
The headlining set from the Allman Brothers Band was astounding for both its muscularity and pace. Thirty-nine years after original guitarists Duane Allman and Dickey Betts were throwing solos back and forth with the ease of a backyard softball toss, current members Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks (nephew of founding drummer Butch Trucks) reignited the group’s Southern rock legacy.
The opening “Statesboro Blues” was a powerful showcase for Gregg Allman’s signature growl and meaty keyboard chops, but it was the appearance of Norwell’s Susan Tedeschi, the bride of Derek Trucks and a serious guitar slinger in her own right, that set an early precedent. Her vocal duet with Haynes on “Hurts Me Too” was splendid and left listeners wondering what sort of kitchen conversations she and her husband must have with electrified instruments.
An extended rip through the instrumental “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” gave each Allman member an opportunity to shine and was particularly impressive considering that core drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe were joined by percussionist Marc Quinones. Things could get muddy quickly with three men holding drumsticks, but each was skilled enough to support the others’ flights of fancy.
For his part, Weir seemed intent on invoking the spirit of “Dylan and the Dead,” a live record from the Grateful Dead’s union with Bob Dylan that drew heavily from a 1987 show they played together in Foxboro. Weir delivered enthusiastic takes on Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” sandwiched around the Dead’s lysergic landmark “Dark Star.”