Monday, August 20, 2001
By John Young
Sure, you can call the Allman Brothers Band a Southern rock band. The group
originated in the South. The group rocks.
But the Allman Brothers Band, particularly the 2001 configuration that played
Post-Gazette Pavilion last night, belongs in another category. This is a blues
band. And they don’t play the stiff, whitewashed stuff of the commercial
airwaves, either, preferring searing, gut-bucket, greasy, down home, tail-kickin’
Nowhere was that more evident than during a three-song virtual suite that
brought the group’s two-hour set to its climax. First came “Worried Down With
the Blues.” The band played at a hush as Warren Haynes took the mike and
spun a tale of trying to be a good man to a home-wrecking woman. Even with
all the great players in the group, everyone had the good sense to hold back and
create space for Haynes to let loose occasional growling bursts of singing and
Ten minutes later Gregg Allman was singing “Leave My Blues at Home.” The
tune positively percolated as bassist Oteil Burbridge and the band’s three
percussionists poured on the funk. Marc Quinones, playing congas and assorted
percussion instruments, set the tone with great rhythmic blasts around the work
of Jaimoe and Butch Trucks on the drum kits. Allman’s fat, smart organ licks
were the icing on the cake.
Finally, Allman counted to four and the band tore into “Statesboro Blues.” As if
the music didn’t make enough of a statement, the video screen behind the group
featured images of blues players as diverse as Muddy Waters, Blind Willie
McTell, Robert Johnson and Jimi Hendrix. Haynes and fellow guitarist Derek
Trucks did some fine riffing, although Allman again stood out during his short
but weighty piano solo.
Which isn’t to say that the Allman Brothers Band played nothing but the blues.
Some of their more concise melodic pieces were some of their strongest.
“Midnight Rider” clocked in at only about three minutes, but lasted long enough
for Allman and Haynes to do some fine vocal harmonizing while Trucks joined
Haynes on the harmonic guitar lines of the instrumental break. “Ain’t Wastin’
Time No More” also soared, with Derek Trucks adding slide guitar that echoed,
and didn’t merely reprise, the guitar work on the original recording.
The ABB also recognized that all of their instrumental work can be great on the
ears but boring to the eyes. The video screen behind them was often used to
interesting effect, whether it was vintage motorcycle footage being shown
during “Good Clean Fun” or Haynes’ image being mixed with kaleidoscopic,
psychedelic swirls for “Rockin’ Horse.” The most interesting images were
projected during “Blackhearted Woman” as vintage tattoo flash art combined
with footage of a mysterious-looking dancer.
But the blues were at the core of everything the group did for the 11,179 fans in
attendance. From the opening tandem of “Don’t Want You No More” and “Not
My Cross To Bear” to an encore of “One Way Out,” the Allmans centered the
lyrics on rogue living and love gone wrong and the music on traditional
They also left Haynes and Derek Trucks plenty of room to display their guitar
chops. Trucks played slide most often, and his lead work was fleet, light and
often centered on the highest notes of his guitar neck. Haynes preferred to get
dirtier, ripping into solos that squealed, reveling in their rough edges. The two
complimented each other, and often turned dueling solos into harmonic duets.
Combining great guitar work, a tight rhythm section and Allman’s beautifully
gruff voice and keyboard playing, the Allman Brothers Band turned a gray night
Susan Tedeschi also played the blues at the show, but in a far friendlier and
mellower manner. Tedeschi’s voice expressed subtle emotions and brought out
the lyrical nuances of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” and
Tedeschi’s own “Looking for Answers.” Her guitar playing was less
spectacular, though, and her set could’ve deleted a few well-known covers in
favor of tunes as distinctive as “You Need To Be With Me” and the
The Columbus, Ohio band Ekoostik Hookah opened the show with folky fare
for the tie-dyed jam band fans.