New York Daily News, 11 March 2005
By Jim Farber
Daily News Music Critic
AS SURELY AS St. Patrick’s Day and the first hints of spring arrive each March, so do the Allman Brothers settle in for a cozy stay at the Beacon Theater.
For 16 years now, this classic Southern rock band has made the upper West Side its home throughout the month. This year’s stretch features 10 dates dotting the next two weeks.
Last night’s opening performance not only demonstrated why fans keep coming back, it showed how the band members can stand to play some of the same songs for decades without shooting themselves in the head.
As any follower of the group knows, they’re astute improvisers who owe as much to the quickly shifting intricacies of jazz as the stridently reliable backbeats of rock.
In the band’s boldest moments, they stretched out to psychedelic extremes, letting their solos unfurl with grace and invention. Lead guitarists Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes took turns at the helm, each plotting intricate plays with their solos. Every one told a story, with a beginning, middle and end.
In the opening “Sailin’ Across the Devil’s Sea,” Haynes interspersed sharp, darting notes with elegant runs. In “Walk on Gilded Splinters,” Trucks made his slide work sizzle.
Trucks – the nephew of drummer Butch Trucks, and a band leader in his own right – has the tougher task of the two. Essentially, he’s the fill-in for the ousted Dickey Betts. But last night, he again proved himself the more daring of the lead players. His solos made improbable leaps look inevitable.
The two guitarists have plenty to anchor their erudite flights. Greg Allman’s warm organ sets a bedrock for the songs. A trio of percussionists give every number force and lift.
Last night, the group mainly steered clear of war-horses. While they did offer classics like “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” or “Sweet Melissa,” they just as often rendered rarer pieces. Allman offered a beautiful new ballad, “Delta Blue,” and a properly pained version of Jackson Browne’s “These Days.”
Unlike last year’s opening show, which stuck to better-known cuts and featured more timid solos, this season’s salvo found the group full of wonder. How great to see a band, 36 years into its life, still stoked by a sense of discovery.