Demand for tickets to The Allman Brothers’ shows at The Beacon is reaching critical mass. And it’s little wonder, since the band’s 2003 appearances at the off-Broadway theatre completed a collective reinvention of themselves that drew equal amounts of mainstream recognition and artistic fulfillment.
But, as so often happens, creative peaks are difficult if not impossible to sustain. ABB concerts of wondrous surprise through the next two summers, redolent with material from the latest studio album Hittin’ The Note as well as fascinating covers (”Franklin’s Tower,” “Walk On Gilded Splinters”) combined with recurring special guests like Karl Denson, have morphed into experiences, if not predictable, then surprising in a wholly different way, i.e. “How does the band keep itself so inspired?”
Last year’s summer tour is a case in point. It was a shorter jaunt in comparison to the previous two years in part due to the concentration afforded the other commitments of linchpin band members: guitarists Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes were both working with their respective units in support of recent releases. DTB’s Songlines had been released in early 2006 around the same time Gov’t Mule was hitting its stride in recording sessions for what would become late summer’s High & Mighty CD.
All this activity took place just prior to the Beacon run during which guests abounded. The roster eventually ranged from Taj Mahal and Ben Harper to Peter Frampton and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Gary Rossington to Susan Tedeschi and Mike Mattison and Devon Allman. The one ‘new’ tune was a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” that didn’t sound fully developed and reappeared only a handful of concerts for the remainder of the year’s live performances.
Few selections from the HTN CD cropped up either, apart from “Rockin’ Horse,”(which actually dates back to Haynes’ pre-ABB days). Founder member/expatriate brother Dickey Betts’ instrumental “Jessica” had been exhumed the year before but was a rare inclusion in set lists last year and while 2005 saw the emergence of a new instrumental title “Egypt,” its appearances were few and far between as well.
Accordingly, The Allmans circa 2006 adopted novel means of revitalizing themselves. Another of Betts’ numbers, “Revival,” had turned into something of a regular opener/closer/encore over the last couple years; late in August in New Hampshire The Brothers deconstructed the tune, previously presented as a set piece, escalating and intensifying it into a bonafide free improvisation. The Allmans also proved able to reinvigorate their standard repertoire: what looks like a greatest hits list on paper for the Massachusetts Tweeter Center concert 8/26 was in fact one of the most consistently powerful shows this lineup has done in the past few years.
The nominal highlight of last year’s Beacon Theatre shows may have been the March 13th recreation of the Fillmore East album in recognition of the thirty-fifth anniversary of its recording. A novel concept to be sure, and one that doesn’t present itself too often, which begs the question of what The Allman Brothersdo this year to meet the expectations fostered by the announcement of thirteen spring shows and the subsequent frenzied response for tickets.
Rumors have come and gone for over a year about a new ABB studio recording, but respective members’ schedules wouldn’t appear to allow that project to happen: Gregg extended his solo tour into January 2007 and Derek hit the road with Eric Clapton again. Of course, the band can write and play new originals without recording them.
Another archival title is likely and, welcome as that might be, would not provide the fodder of new material to spark the chemistry this lineup has developed because the group’s exhumed virtually all the vintage material they have at this point. The Brothers are too professional a group of musicians to allow themselves to merely go through the motions. But this discussion begs the question of how high and strong the creative juices are flowing through The Allman Brothers Band right now.
With no palpable personnel friction or collective tragedy to overcome, the likes of which has spurred on The Allman Brothers during the course of their thirty-five-plus year career, the upcoming appearances at The Beacon, purely in artistic terms alone, will be conjuring up more than the usual amount of anticipation.
And that’s as true of the band as its audience, so ABB may be readily prepared to answer all the unanswered questions before themselves and their fans when they hit their beloved stage March 22nd.