The Allman Brothers Band

Allmans pack satisfying marathon

The Newark Star-Ledger, 12 March 2005

By Claudia Perry
Star-Ledger Staff

Face it, all rock is Southern rock.

When the genre was hatched a half century ago, it raided the region’s musical pantry that was stocked with blues, jazz, country, heck, even bluegrass. As time has passed only the ingredients change, not the recipe.

Nowhere can you satisfy your appetite for rugged, eclectic musical genius better than at an Allman Brothers show. The band, which kicked off its 16th annual marathon stint at the Beacon Thursday, played with easy confidence. Guitarists Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes made twin guitars howl with sensual grace and, on a few rare occasions, squawk like cats in a dryer. Nobody’s perfect.

Jam bands litter the landscape, causing much appreciative head-bobbing and herky-jerky dancing. When the Allmans jam on a song, be it “I Walk on Gilded Splinters” or old favorites like “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” or “Dreams,” every note is in the service of the song. Trucks and Haynes have every right to pack for a serious ego trip, but their playing is more than a series of can-you-top-this moments.

Trucks was particularly impressive, adding some delicious bottleneck slide to “Splinters.” He and Haynes took turns playing rhythm, sometimes mirroring bassist Oteil Burbridge’s rubbery lines.

Oh yeah. That Gregg Allman fellow still has the mojo, too. When the band kicked off with “Sailin’ Cross the Devil’s Sea,” Allman let his careworn voice loose. As some rockers age, their voices lose character as well as register. At worst, they delegate the notes they can’t hit to backup singers.

No worries. Allman still has character and sex appeal to spare. After a break, he played piano on “Oncoming Traffic” and “Delta Blue,” a new song. He was joined by Haynes, and the pair did an acoustic version of Jackson Browne’s “These Days.” When you’re having a party that lasts as long as this one, some friends are going to drop by. Saxman Ravi Coltrane joined in on “Dreams,” which he seemed to know well, and “Elizabeth Reed,” where he sounded more tentative.

The audience, mostly male, spanned a few generations and yelled appreciatively through most of the night. The Beacon stand seems to allow veterans from previous years to catch up. When the music stopped, the hum of conversation was nearly as loud as the band, but not loud enough to mar the proceedings.

All right. A shout-out to Haynes is overdue. He and Trucks clearly enjoy their partnership. “Preachin’ Blues,” which showcased the pair, was a delight with the axmen taking turns playing slide and letting the guitars wail.

Trucks’ uncle Butch was one of the anchors of the triple-threat percussion attack. He and drummer Jaimoe all but breathe in unison. Percussionist Marc Quiñones is like the glove to the Jaimoe-Trucks hand. It’s impossible to imagine this band without this trio of heavy hitters.

The Allmans didn’t clean out the cupboards. After all, there are eight more shows to go. By the time they played “Southbound” for the encore, they had greased the skillet, lit the fire and cooked.

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