The Allman Brothers Band

Allmans: New, clearly improved

By: Al Salvato
For the Cincinnati Post

Without the clean guitar licks of Dickey Betts, fans of the Allman Brothers Band seemed left to wonder whether the group still packed creative might in the studio and on stage. Or was the 34-year run for the legendary blues/Southern rock band over? Betts left the Brothers nearly three years ago when band members — led by Greg Allman — said Betts no longer fit the band’s musical direction and that he had lost his dazzle on stage.

With Betts’ departure, so went such stirring trademark songs as “Rambling Man,” “Jessica” and “Blue Skies” from the Brothers’ stage show, leaving fans curious whether the reassembled Brothers could continue to draw their young and old loyalists. At Riverbend Music Center on Tuesday, July 1, the new and clearly improved Brothers showed that life moves on even without Betts’ musical genius and that the band has found new energy in the studio and on stage.

Joining the Brothers for Tuesday’s show as one of the hottest stage bands touring today — “Tiny Universe,” a jazz/funk and at times rock group led by Karl Denson, former saxophonist for Lenny Kravitz. Denson even spent an hour accompanying the Brothers.

Much of the Allman Brothers’ resurgence comes because the band lured back co-lead guitarist Warren Haynes after a 1 ½-year hiatus. A masterful slide guitarist in the vein of Duane Allman and equally riveting singer, Haynes spent nearly two years guiding his own blues group, “Government Mule,” then headed back to the Brothers because he sensed the band’s new spirit.

Haynes and Greg Allman turned to the studio and, just months ago, released “Hittin’ the Note,” the band’s first album of new material in nine years.

On stage Tuesday, the band played a half dozen songs from the new CD, including the moody “Desdemona,” the reflective “Old Before My Time” and a re-release of Freddie King’s smooth-as-ever “Woman Across the River” — and played them all with vigor.

This rejuvenation of the Brothers all makes sense because band patriarch Greg Allman has turned songwriter again — and a fine one — and seems thrilled again about being on stage. Allman’s resurgence may be attributed to his stepping away from the Brothers and forming “Greg Allman and Friends.” This reviewer saw Allman and his pals a year or so ago and sensed a spark in the organist/lead singer that seems to have re-aroused the Brothers.

The Brothers’ new spirit also emerged with the teaming up of Haynes and Derek Trucks to play double-lead guitars — the longtime staple of the group. The baby-faced Trucks and road-hardened bluesman Haynes easily complemented one another on stage Tuesday.

The powerful licks from Haynes and Trucks ring true to the Brothers’ distinct sound and what gave and continues to give this band longevity. Even if you couldn’t visualize Duane Allman and Betts performing, a video show accompanying “Elizabeth Reed” during Tuesday’s show flashed live performances from the two, drawingroars from the crowd of nearly 11,000.

During Tuesday’s warm-up to the Brothers, “Tiny Universe” brought fans to their feet and kept them there as they ripped through one funky tune after another.

Publication Date: 07-02-2003

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