After 8 nights, I decided to take Sunday off and just listen… so this is probably going to be a shorter review than usual… or is it…
No One Left to Run With
Aint Wastin’ Time No More
Every Hungry Woman
Been Loving You Too Long (Jukes horns)
The Same Thing (horns; Danny Louis; Tain Watts)
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (horns)
Who’s Been Talkin’ (Hubert Sumlin) >
Forty-Four (Hubert Sumlin)
Feel So Bad (Mike Mattison, Susan T-T, horns)
Into the Mystic (horns)
Southbound (horns, Louis, Mike Gordon for Oteil)
Mountain Jam >
Birdland taste >
Will the Circle Be Unbroken? >
Kirk tells me before the show that “according to Haynes, last night was the best of the run– and unless something goes wrong, tonight will be even better.”
After the joyous colors the band had painted across the Manhattan sky on Saturday, you had to figure the closing show was going to be the cherry on the sundae– not quite a let down, but maybe a sort of easing off. Getaway day.
You’d be wrong. Very wrong.
After some extended tuning that was entertaining in itself, the show starts on the upbeat with a blast of “No One Left to Run With.” The band rocks hard over the bed of Gregg’s keyboards. Warren is especially creative on his solo, and when the band locks into that Bo Diddley beat is there is glory in simplicity. Derek’s solo work is riveting on “Aint Wastin’ Time No More.” Gregg’s keyboard solo on “Statesboro Blues” is an early highlight. It is an upbeat but easygoing 1-2-3 punch to open the show.
Warren busts out one final “Rocking Horse,” and things get less easygoing in a hurry. He plays a particularly ripping solo; after the hand-off, Derek plays some jazzy chords, then stops time for a moment, you drop to your knees, and then he’s off and running again. “Every Hungry Woman” keeps the adrenalin pumping.
The Asbury Jukes horns– with several familiar faces from the Conan O’Brien show; a 5-piece horn section– take the stage and the band slows things down with “Loving You Too Long,” something of a curve ball given that they’d been featuring “Dreams to Remember” from the Otis Redding song book this run. The horn lines are outstanding. Warren belts out soulful vocals as the horns swell, then a horn section break; their sound is full and punchy, the charts beautifully arranged. After a second round of vocals Derek steps up for a solo, then he’s trading voices with the horns, who are now doing more improvising. Back into the verse, Derek accenting Warren’s singing, with the horns providing counterpoint.
Danny Louis joins the party for “The Same Thing;” Jeff “Tain” Watts is sitting in on drums for Jaimoe (Starbucks run?) The riff to the song is big and brassy, and Warren is directing traffic, pointing to Louis for the first solo. Louis is all over the keyboards in a soulful romp. The ball is tossed to the horns for a sax solo (Eddie Manion?); then the full section joins him. Derek’s lead lines take the song back to the verse, which in turn gives way to yet another horn interlude. Then Oteil grabs the reins for his funk workout, staying in the pocket created by the horns. Then Oteil throws it back to Warren with a nod, and Warren passes the ball back to the horns. It is as if the music is moving around and around, each player or section grabbing it, adding to it and passing it on. The horn players trade lines, then Derek solos over furious Warren chording that brings the song to a forceful close. As usual, it is a highlight.
Next, Jaimoe returns and the horn section plays oddly southern, almost dissonant lines that announce “Dixie.” “Virgil, come quick,” sings Derek on guitar during the solo break. It has been a treat hearing this song become an Allman Brothers song over the course of the run, in no small part due to Derek’s empathetic soloing. Danny Louis plays a nice tinkly solo, Gregg sings the verse for all its worth, Derek chimes.
“Revival” is the perfect set closer, the band going long on the “People can you feel it, love is everywhere” part. The people can feel it.
The second set opens with a gift– one more Derek “Dreams.” If it is less dramatic for its placement in the setlist, it is no less transportive. The song ends on a fat hanging note, Butch segueing into a heavy drum beat. Then the band stops momentarily and starts up again, and it is “Firing Line.” Warren’s nasty riffing creates a tug of war with Gregg’s snarling vocals. Warren plays a slide solo that fills the hall; Derek shines on the outro.
What follows is a true treat for the hard core Allmans or blues fan. I’d seen it on the setlist (love those seats behind the soundboard), but knowing it was coming does not adequately prepare you for the sheer impact of actually seeing– and hearing. Warren introduces Hubert Sumlin and brings him to the stage, where he sets up– perfect!– right next to Derek. Sumlin– the hat, the suit, the tie, those fingers– looks perfect. He was Howlin’ Wolf’s guitar player, he’s 73, and he played on the originals of both tunes he sits in on. First, the band rolls into “Who’s Been Talkin’.” Sumlin begins by playing rhythm, then he adds tasteful licks over Warren’s vocals. Sumlin is true old school blues; he tosses in the familiar riff from the Otis Rush song “For the Love,” basically played by spelling out the notes formed by an A minor chord, sort of “da-DA da-DEE da-DA da-DEE-da.” It is a classic blues lick, and years melt away as he lays it into the Allman mix. Warren sings the next verse, and as Derek takes a lead Sumlin sits. Hubert Sumlin and Derek Trucks. Together. It is just too perfect. Sumlin’s smile is a mile wide as Derek plays the blues; Derek isn’t exactly hating it either. On the song’s instrumental mid-section, Warren makes the improvisational decision not to play, and the flame is turned down to a soft simmer as Derek and Sumlin are trading licks, coaxing subtle lines from each other from across the years. Warren lays in some judicious lines, Sumlin plays that old lick again, riffing off of it. Warren sings the verse again, then Sumlin teases out gentle licks over light drums. Derek joins, then Oteil fuels the seamless flip to the “Forty-Four” riff.
The whole band, following Sumlin’s lead, is a model of restraint, even on Warren’s vocals. You hear ringing, Chicago blues solo lines, and you don’t have to look to know it is Sumlin, those big old fingers deliberately playing that guitar like it is an extension of his joyful, hurtful soul. Sumlin is hardly there, but as present as can be. Warren is digging into the vocals now, then the band is gently swinging, Derek and Sumlin trading lines, then all three guitars in unison wrapped around the song’s drunken riff, then trading licks. Sumlin’s playing has that wobbly quality that reminds you of old cartoons and scratchy records, in a very good way. After the final vocal section there is a great extended outro, and the song, finally at end, is a musical delicacy. The old man’s deft touch speaks volumes about where this band is today– and where they can go, how they can age with dignity and grace without sacrificing a thing. God bless Hubert Sumlin. And thank you guys for what may well be a once-in-a-lifetime treat.
“Hot ‘Lanta” is up next, upbeat, hard, driving, Gregg again shining on this instrumental vehicle.
The horns, Mike Mattison from Derek’s band, and the missus, Susan Tedeschi Trucks, join the band for a sprightly run-through of “Feel So Bad” that is pure Staxx-Volt. Mattison grabs the vocals by the throat, then Susan plays a stinging solo that brings applause from the crowd and a proud smile from Derek. Derek, indeed, cannot hide his deep love for her, and he beams as he looks from her to the applauding crowd and back.
Gregg sings a verse, then a sax solo and the horn section kicks in. Mattison sings a verse, the band locked now into a deep tight groove, the drummers totally in the pocket. Then Derek wails over Susan and Warren on rhythm. Gregg sings the last of the vocals; the groove on the outro– 5 horns, 3 guitars, 3 drums, bass, keyboards– is awesome to behold.
A gloriously melodic space overture leads into Warren’s beautiful reading of “Into the Mystic.” He strums the chords as the horns spice up and lend some brass to the song’s melody.
Danny Louis returns, and Mike Gordon replaces Oteil, for the barnstomping set closer, the inevitable “Southbound.” Oteil locks with the horns; it is, like “Same Thing,” a hot potato song, everyone gets a turn to shine.
Like I said, those soundboard seats afford a peek at the setlist. This is what is listed as the encore:
It is a fitting, thrilling close to what has probably been the most exciting week of music of my life. Derek does his sweet dance over Butch’s trademark beat, then plays at the “Mountain Jam” theme. Warren and Derek are reveling in the song’s harmony lines. Derek solos, then Warren with Derek providing counter-melody. Then Derek flies over Warren’s chorded grounding. Gregg takes off on an organ excursion. Then Warren plays what seems like a “Birdland” tease; but soon it is clear that the band has fallen in behind him and it is a full-on excerpt from “Birdland. Not a “tease;” more a “taste.” Derek is immediately on it with him; the band follows. First Warren is riffing the “Birdland” theme, then once the band gets the message he is strumming the melody over general organized chaos. It is the perfect solution to the problem of how to get to “Afro-Blue.” The jam shifts underneath Warren, and when it is time, the guitars state the theme to “Afro-Blue.” The segue is remarkably smooth and well-executed, and “Afro-Blue,” though not immediately recognizable to all, continues to grow as the perfect vehicle for this band. The guitarists state the theme together and the sound is pure classic Allman Brothers twin harmony guitar. Even though the song is totally new to the set, the song fits this band like a pair of old shoes. Soon Derek is off and running, tossing in what must be the tenth “My Favorite Things” tease of the run. Derek’s extended workout races to a breakneck climax.
The guitars restate the instrumental theme, using it as a transitional riff to pass the solo baton to Warren. Warren creates some jazzy, hanging-note space, then improvises off the core theme. He plays some stinging signature Warren Haynes licks over just drums, the three-man percussion section totally simpatico with his vibe. Then the music slows, and suddenly the band has taken a smooth turn into the gospel blues of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” (prediction: before the summer is over, Gregg sings this sucker.) It is unmistakable, deliberate, wrung out for all it is worth. And it is, like “Birdland,” the perfect solution to the question of the segue on the setlist. The guitarists take turns playing with, then against, the melody, which leads into an extended finale which melts away, and the “Mountain Jam” licks emerge, Butch and the drummers underneath. Back into the song’s close– no drum solo tonight– and these seven men bring the show, and the run, to an explosive, decisive, emphatic close.
Afterward, after this show for the ages, but after nine great shows comprising one long work of art, all you want to do is say thank you. You go back stage to say goodbye to your friends, and by chance you run into Derek Trucks and his lovely bride on their way out. “Hey man,” you manage to say to Derek, “I just want to say thank you.” He stops, looks you in the eye, takes your hand with both of his. “No, man. Thank YOU.”
What is he, kidding? But no. Because that’s who these guys are.