Black Hearted Woman
Trouble No More
Don’t Keep Me Wondering
Worried Down With The Blues
Hoochie Coochie Man
Liz Reed > drums > bass > Liz
Don’t Want You No More>
It’s Not My Cross To Bear
You Don’t Love Me (Abts, Neel on harp, Brian Stoltz on guitar)
Woman Across The River
Done Somebody Wrong (Lee Roy Parnell-guitar; no Derek)
By acclimation, Saturday night is the show of the run… so far.
Sitting by the soundboard, I scan the setlist, and am somewhat disheartened
that so many of the songs are the old ones. Soon, though, I remember the
lesson: it matters not what they play; almost anything can happen on almost
The opener, “Black Hearted Woman,” bears this out. The band is fast out of
the gate; as usual, the outro jam is driven home with as much intensity as
the song itself. It is a stinging version, with a full frontal Warren
attack on his solo; both guitarists are soaring frenetically over that outro
A quick “Trouble No More” is followed by “Don’t Keep Me Wondering,”
highlighted by some nice Derek slide work. “Worried Down With the Blues”
features some forceful, downright sorrowful vocals from Warren; Derek plays
a powerful slide solo, then Warren answers with a clean, stinging solo of
his own. You begin to feel Oteil on the bottom. Back into the verse; then
Derek is peeling off high, pained notes. Warren joins him and the two
guitarists bring the song to an emphatic close.
“Midnight Rider” is next, always popular with the crowd. Then “Standback;”
Derek and Oteil are prominent, like rubber and liquid glass respectively.
Warren riffs underneath Derek’s airy soloing; the song is a bouncy, jaunty
Warren steps forward for the first slide attack on the intro to “Hoochie
Coochie Man.” Warren’s solo piece is a blues throwdown; Derek’s response is
a melodic exploration. He passes the baton back to Warren with a heavy,
shaky, emphatic note. Warren plays some more cat gut blues; then Derek
deploys a fat bluesy tone even though he isn’t quite playing the blues.
Derek builds, Warren brings in the band, the music swells headlong into that
driving riff. As with all good Allman Brothers shows, the drummers are
locked in and propulsive. Derek poses some questions with his lead lines;
Warren provides chorded answers; the band is back into the insistent beat of
the song. Oteil is flying in, around, across, under the verse. Powerful.
“Stormy Monday” is the perfect change of pace after the “Hoochie” assault.
Gregg is totally feeling it on the opening organ swells, melding with
Warren’s playing of that classic chord progression. Derek’s licks are
tasteful, moving from minor to major with the song. Gregg evokes vintage
Ray Charles on the vocals; more than a few people comment that his singing
is the best it has been in years (and the more astute listener might say the
same about his keyboard playing.)
As the band segues into the solo sections you wonder how such a sad song can
have the capacity to make you so damned happy. You realize it has something
to do with the articulation of your pain, the sharing of it, then the
dissipation of it. Derek is playing a jazzy solo, then a bluesy slide solo;
the transition seamless, Gregg’s church organ insistent underneath. The
drummers are driving the song, yet restrained; only veterans can deploy so
ginger a touch. Oteil picks up the pace for Gregg’s keyboard solo, and the
band follows; then Warren plays a solo that cuts like a hot knife through
butter. It is the deep, deep blues; it taps into the wellspring of pain and
salvation that makes you go get too drunk on Saturday night, then show up at
church Sunday morning, all in one package, because these are two sides of
the same coin. The crowd expresses its collective pleasure as Gregg sings
the post-solo vocals. Clearly, this and “Hoochie” are highlights.
From the closing notes of “Stormy Monday,” “Elizabeth Reed” emerges. The
drummers’ work is especially noteworthy, with some Derek exploration going
on; he is testing the waters, then pulls the band into a transitional jam
that meanders deliberately over to the “Elizabeth Reed” space. There is a
momentary full stop, then the classic rhythm and lines that presage the
song’s entrance. Derek is playing long, languid lines while Warren plays
that moody chording that gives the song much of its feel. Derek is filling
space with the size, if not the number, of his notes. Finally the guitars
hit the twin guitar theme.
Derek takes the first solo, Warren chooses not to play. It is this kind of
decision that marks the band these days; it is OK that sometimes less is
more. The drums come to the fore as Derek goes be-bop, the two sounds
intertwining. The band follows Derek’s lead, playing with less fury,
leaving more space. Warren starts his solo precisely where Derek ends his,
but soon moves back to the traditional soloist/band dynamic of this song.
The pace picks back up; Derek adds lines to Warren’s solo. Then Gregg
solos, then Warren starts again, with drums backing him but not much else.
He starts slowly, but soon he is unfolding bursts on a long, hot, sweaty
solo. Finally we descend to the drum solo. Jaimoe and Butch are pounding
and flailing away; soon Marc joins in, adding that high end Latin feel to
the top of the drumming ensemble. Butch seems to be possessed tonight.
Oteil hits a single note at the same time the drum solo ends; then he is
silent a beat, two, three before moving to his solo. Oteil scatters notes,
first jazz-inflected, then he flips over to funk. Soon he is riffing with
the drums. The band returns to the stage, and plays the shortest of
conclusions to the song. It is a hell of a way to send you off to
The drum solo in the first set makes the set longer, to be sure, but I
believe it makes the second set more urgent and impactful, and has a
positive impact on the show’s pacing.
As the band goes onstage for the second set, I catch Warren’s attention.
“After the first show,” I tell him, rushing my words, “I said I was worried
that you were peaking too soon, and you promised you’d get better–” He
doesn’t need to hear the rest of where I was going. He shoots me a knowing,
wily smile. “Nicely done,” I manage to stammer out.
The second set picks up where the first set ends, and pushes you over the
Gregg is a force instrumentally on “Don’t Want You No More,” a great vehicle
for his creative soloing. Then Warren takes the band into the bluesy
territory of “Not My Cross to Bear,” playing sweet licks under Gregg’s
growling of the verses. Derek’s lead section features glassier lines. The
band goes into the mist after the song ends, perhaps to give the guests time
to set up; the drummers play triplets, and eventually the band emerges on
the vamp that precedes “You Don’t Love Me.” Matt Abts is on a kit; Johnny
Neel is to Oteil’s right on harp, and Brian Stoltz is set up between Derek
and Gregg on guitar.
Neel plays a killer harp solo; then he and Derek are soloing together over
the pre-theme. Warren joins, and the two guitars and harp are playing in
unison as the band is finally on the “You Don’t Love Me” riff. Neel keeps
blazing through Gregg’s verse, then takes the first solo. Then Stoltz takes
an extremely tasty, tasteful solo. Then Derek’s solo leads back into
Gregg’s vocals. Out of the verses Stoltz again acquits himself nicely; then
another vocal section with Neel blowing away. Derek trades licks with,
against the band’s riff, on to a climactic, grinding wind down. Stellar
guest spots; highlight.
What happens next is transcendent.
Warren leads the band into “Woman Across the River.” his vocals are strong,
as usual; this song is already a set highlight whenever it is included.
Derek plays a furious solo, then back to the vocals. Somehow, the band
seems huge. The music is on top of you, it is getting on you, all over you,
seeping inside you, oozing out of your pores. Usually you go to a show, and
even when its good, its you in your seat, the band onstage, the music in the
hall. Nuh uh. Now the music feels like it is coming from inside you, and
you feel Derek’s soaring, masterful solo, and then his and Warren’s sweet
trade-off, as if they are coming from inside you, like your heartbeat. The
music is now playing you, occupying you. All you can do is smile as you
rock back and forth.
On and on they go, the two guitarists; meanwhile Oteil’s back is to the
crowd, as he locks step with the drum section. The band is running and
running like someone spooked a horse. Finally, bam! The song is hammered
home to a close.
After where we’ve just been– still are– “Soulshine” seems almost
redundant. They’re not supposed to be able to do what they just did on a
blues. Derek’s flying lines do indeed make the sun shine, but on this song,
at this point, it seems almost too easy. On “Woman” they crossed a
threshold, and the rest of the night (indeed the next two nights) there was
no going back.
LeRoy Parnell, who was apparently dissatisfied (wrongly) with his playing
the night before, brought his own gear tonight; by the way, he is the
nicest, humblest gentleman you could ask to meet. He plugs in, with Derek
leaving the stage, for “Done Somebody Wrong.” Parnell immediately tears off
a solo with perfect intensity. His slide work is perfect, and in mid-song
he and Warren lean together as they both wail away over the band’s
Next up is “Dreams,” and it is a Warren night. Derek offers a brief solo
between Gregg’s verses. Then Warren takes us away, masterfully handling the
solo section, and you lose time because suddenly the band is back in waltz
tempo for the song’s finish. I cannot write about the “Dreams” solos,
because when they are on the money, they take you away someplace. Suffice
it to say, away I went.
Then Oteil lays down the opening thunder that has come to mean “Instrumental
Illness.” The sections and solos are unveiled in driving sequence. Again
the listener is awash, going with the flow. Warren plays a solo that brings
you to earth even as he pulls you out of your seat. He reminds you that
this is a Saturday night show– in all its splendor. The band comes to a
full stop, then Oteil is off on the coltish romp through the song’s
signature bass line.
There is nothing more Saturday night than hearing the opening rumble of
“Whipping Post” in a hot sweaty New York theater. Tonight the music has
washed over, transported, transformed me. I could not ask for a better
encore than the pure release that is “Whipping Post.”
There is a tease of a tease of “My Favorite Things” in Derek’s solo. Derek
is using the entire neck, tripping out the familiar “Whipping Post” to
something… more. Suddenly the frenetic soloing becomes a mad group dash
back to the verse. Warren’s solo is pure release; pure, sex-drenched
release. The band then crashes headlong into the stop that precedes the
final verse, and Gregg’s singing and the subsequent instrumental stretch
puts an exclamation point on the evening.
I had come in sore and overtired. I bound out into the night bathed in joy.
I positively reek music. I run into friends in and around the beacon; hugs
Some day, when I want to remember just why live music is so special, I will
think back to this night.