By: Jeff Sevak
For: The Democrat and Chronicle
If the Allman Brothers Band would come out some night and simply play Live at Fillmore East from start to finish, that’s all many of their fans would need. If RatDog would come out and simply play the Grateful Dead, that’s all the fans of the Dead’s guitarist, Bob Weir, and his offshoot band would need.
It was close on both counts Friday night at Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center. And nothing’s wrong with that. Not when you see old hippies beaming while singing along to “Casey Jones,” their extra-wide mature bodies stretching the tie-dye T-shirts to the seam limit, looking like exploding suns.
Friday’s double bill on this hot and sticky evening drew about 10,000 — a big success story for the venue, now in its third season of post-renovation ambition. It was the second-biggest show of the summer, which along with last month’s Kenny Chesney concert, in past years would have been at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center.
Who was there? The guys in the row in front of me were wearing T-shirts celebrating Hendrix, Woodstock ’99 and Barack Obama. The Allman’s usual blend of bikers and faux-biker lawyers. The Dead’s mix of multi-generational weed sniffers.
This is what they came for: RatDog plays a seamless set of classic Dead and cool covers, and as the night went on the show got better. Bathroom-break jams combined with Weir’s spiraling guitar, a signature sound of the Dead. “China Cat” was greeted with a huge roar, not because it’s such a popular song for the band, but probably because many knew it would roll into what might be the Dead version of a greatest hit, “I Know You Rider.”
Encore? How about bringing out the Allman’s Warren Haynes for a quick, happy take on the Beatles’ “Revolution?”
Weir returned the favor by joining the Allmans for the Dead’s “Roll Away,” in a set that showcased Gregg Allman’s achingly amazing gospel blues voice from the opening “Ain’t My Cross to Bear,” and on to “Statesboro Blues.” As excellent as RatDog was, the Allmans erased that with superb versions of songs like the director’s cut version of “One Way Out,” with extended percussion solos from Jaimo, Butch Trucks and Marc Quinones. Allman continues to add layers of edge to his vocals, but Warren Haynes is closing in on him. If Allman were to sit out a tour, Haynes could carry the load.
When the Allmans, closing in on 11:30 p.m., broke into “Revival,” with its chorus of “People can you feel it, love is everywhere,” this is a band that means it. Seeing the entire lawn at CMAC blanketed with people, all in various modes of party, is a thrill. There will be whining about traffic and lines, but so what? What’s your hurry? Four-lane highways would rip the charm from the Finger Lakes. These shows are a communal event, a time to meet the folks on the blanket next to you. Has the Internet and the cell phone and the bank machine taken this away from us?