By: Dave Richards
You could debate it all night. Exactly when did the Allman Brothers Band concert at the Warner Theatre on Tuesday transcend the realm of merely good and nearly reach nirvana?
Was it during a physical, Cream-like rendition of the old-blues “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” which featured guitarist Warren Haynes on vocals and Derek Trucks jamming way up the neck, hitting and sustaining impossible high notes?
Maybe it was when keyboard player Greg Allman stepped out with an acoustic guitar to open the second set with an eloquent “Melissa?”
Could have been the surprise of seeing Susan Tedeschi — the wife of Derek Trucks — bound on stage to sing a bluesy, moving version of Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”
Then again, you can make a case for the thunderous, three-man percussion jam by Jaimoe, Butch Trucks, and Marc Quinones amidst “Leave My Blues At Home,” which set up a blistering finale.
Whatever moment you choose, the rowdy, sold-out crowd at the Warner Theatre greeted nearly every song with rapture. After all, it’s not often a band the stature of the Allman Brothers Band visits Erie, let alone plays the more intimate Warner. Since their 1969 debut, the Allmans have personified Southern rock at its finest, perfecting a blissful fusion of blues, rock, funk and gospel that’s made to order for jamming and, yet, song-oriented, as well.
On Tuesday, extended jams were expected. This show was billed as “An Evening With,” patterned after the Allmans’ annual concerts at New York’s Beacon Theatre. They promised three hours of music, but didn’t quite get there. They did just a one-song encore, “One Way Out,”(which left scorch marks on stage), but few fans were complaining on the way out.
“It was wonderful. Their stamina is fantastic,” said Sandra Kennedy of Erie, a longtime Allmans fan.
Added Jim, her husband: “I loved it. But they didn’t play ‘Whipping Post.'”
Mark Zielienski — attending with son Steve — said they shined, compared with a show they saw in Pittsburgh’s spacious Post-Gazette Pavilion just a few days earlier.
energy,” Mark Zielinski said. “The smaller crowd here is very, very into the show. I think they’re feeling those vibes, and rewarding us for our interest in their music.”
Accompanied by a trippy, psychedelic light show, the Allmans opened with the classic “Mountain Jam,” as if to announce the monumental jams that’d mark the night. The stellar interplay between Haynes and Trucks took center stage, with Trucks sizzling on slide. They traded lead throughout; Trucks ripping off piercing, spiraling licks, then Haynes upping the ante, as on a shattering “Jessica,” which closed the second set.
Allman’s gruff yet soulful vocals hit home, especially during a stirring cover of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”But singling out any one Allman is beside the point. As one of the original jam bands, the Allmans shine as a unit, then let everyone do their thing, too.
“That’s the heart and soul of the Allmans, how all the instrumentalists and vocals mesh together, yet they leave enough room for each one to step out and take a chance to shine,” said Mark Zielinski. “They just switch back and forth and rotate and showcase their talents. I think they’re one of the tightest groups out there playing right now.”
After Tuesday’s show, in fact, you might wonder if the Allman Brothers Band is more of a jammin’ classic-rock band or classic jam-rock band.
You could debate it all night.