By: Malcolm X Abram
For the Beacon Journal
Apparently the road does go on forever. Gregg Allman and the band that carries his name sang those words about 30 years ago, but Wednesday night, July 2, at Tower City Amphitheater, they once again proved that old lyric to be true.
The band has survived the deaths of founder Duane Allman, original bassist Berry Oakley and a replacement bassist, plus serious drug and alcohol problems and intraband wrangling.
Old fans who still haven’t recovered from the 2000 ousting of original guitarist Dickey Betts may find it hard to believe, but the 2003 edition of the Allman Brothers Band is rocking as hard as a group with four members older than 50 can be expected to.
Beginning with You Don’t Love Me, which featured a boogaloo groove, the band played a 2 ½-hour set that spanned the length of its career. The band has been playing sheds around the country every summer for several years, but this tour is the first since 1994 that the Allmans have had a studio album’s worth of new songs to promote.
The band played several songs from Hittin’ the Note, and they fit well alongside groove-heavy versions of classics such as Midnight Rider, Trouble No More and Black Hearted Woman.
The twin guitar attack of Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks was as tight as ever, with Trucks’ lyrical slide playing contrasting well with Haynes’ more traditional blues picking. Strong solos were numerous, and the grooves were deep. Trucks’ slide suffered at times from the mix, making it difficult to discern exactly what he was doing on the fret board, but it didn’t detract from the lengthy, carefully constructed solo he played on Dreams or the lead guitar duel that Haynes and Trucks engaged in on Woman Across The River.
Gregg Allman’s voice, which always belied his actual age, still has the smoky, soulful sound of someone who has done some hard living, and his vocals were just as affecting as they were three decades ago. Haynes, who also sang several tunes, has a voice that is an acquired taste. To some, he sounds like a great, husky-voiced blues shouter, to others a yowling cat. But on Hittin’ the Note and at Tower City, his rough voice had just enough melody and emotion to work.
The audience, which like the band spanned a few generations, greeted much of the new material with the same enthusiasm as the classics, with couples dancing during Stormy Monday and young second-generation hippie kids doing their chicken dances to the funkier tunes.
Opening act Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe loosened up the crowd with an hour of soul jazz and funk. The saxophonist and his sextet performed originals and covers such as Jimi Hendrix’s Power Of Soul in a seamless, high-energy medley.