By: David Malachowski
For: The Times Union
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Allman Brothers Band has been coming to Saratoga Springs since 1971, when it played a free outdoor concert at Skidmore College that was a musical epiphany for many.
This show wasn’t free, but it was worth every penny. From the first note stuck, to the last resounding echoes, founding members Greg Allman, Butch Trucks and Jaimoe Johanson carried the formidable weight of their history on their collective shoulders like it was something to be respected, but not a burden.
At SPAC they hit the ground running with the first cut off the first album, “Don’t Want You Know More/Ain’t My Cross to Bear.” Relative newcomers guitar wunderkind Derek Trucks and six-string wizard Warren Haynes looked serious with no smiles, concentrating on the business at hand — playing as if their lives depended on it.
It was pure guitar heaven.
A slow reading of “Wasted Words” ended with some serious slide solos, the take-your-head-off, go-through-the-roof type. It didn’t end there. Warhorse “Statesboro Blues” just took off as slim, spry Greg Allman’s gravely voice was the perfect fit. Allman then sang up a storm in a smoky “Gamblers Roll.”
The band’s intricate interplay is still intact. Trucks was a sight to behold, his Zen-like demeanor juxtaposed against a burning intensity while playing his guitar. In the 2-hour show, Haynes paced himself while Trucks went for the throat immediately; they both crossed the line together. North Mississippi Allstars’ Cody Dickinson joined in on drums for “Same Thing” and his brother Luther chimed in on guitar for “Come Into My Kitchen” and “Highway 61.”
Though the focus was on guitars, it was drummer Butch Trucks who was really steering the ship, guiding the monstrous rhythm section of himself, Marc Quinones (percussion) and Otieil Burbridge on bass.
The heat rose and smiles were finally exchanged in “Black Hearted Woman” and its explosive drum circle. A majestic, joyous “Jessica” brought the night to a close. The legend lives on.
North Mississippi Allstars played a fine set, fronted by Luther (guitar and vocals) and Cody (drums) Dickinson. The fiery power trio seems to get better with each performance. An extended ride through Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” was pure pleasure, while a slow, simmering “Hear My A Train a-Comin’ ” was just on fire.
Slithering around in the blues, JJ Grey & Mofro offered an enjoyable set of harp drenched in horns. The laid back “Circles” was a sure highlight.
David Malachowski is a local freelance writer from Woodstock and a regular contributor to the Times Union.