First, as a reference point, the obligatory setlist.
Trouble No More
Every Hungry Woman
Good Morning Little School Girl
Good Clean Fun
Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’
The Same Thing (GA horns)
Who To Believe
Sailin’ Across The Devil’s Sea
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (horns)
Encore: Southbound (horns; Lang from St. Louis)
It is remarkable what a difference a night can make. If Monday was the Yin side of the band, Tuesday they stormed out of the gate Yanging like a mofo. If Monday was a hazy, spacy, laid back sort of affair, Tuesday was alpha male from the git-go.
Perhaps a major contributing factor was the absence of Jaimoe, apparently home nursing some soreness. Does it make a difference if one of three drummers is out (and replaced, I believe, by Gregg’s drummer)? Well, I think drummers are a little like the umpire in baseball; when the ump has a great game, you don’t notice him. Suffice it to say, in absence, Jaimoe was noticed.
But the absence presented a variable to the band, too talented a group to buckle to adversity, so it became interesting to see how they would respond. Butch begins the show with the welcome and familiar cadence to “Mountain Jam;” I don’t think anyone complains when a show begins this way. The drum intro is relatively brief before Derek begins dancing the melody around the room. There are some nice space chords, Oteil bombs, and Derek improvisation, as he continues to willfully defy the limitations of the song’s actual melodic underpinnings. Derek and Warren trade licks in the gentlest of approaches. Finally, Derek snaps us out of it, leading into the twin guitar theme of the tune proper.
Some time during the tune I look toward the stage at Warren, and I think I see an extra grimace, a look of fire in his steely eyes. Does it mean anything? Who knows. But apparently I thought it was worth jotting down…
Derek takes his turn out of the arranged portion of the piece, and nonchalantly takes it up to 11. Warren’s solo seems to strike a chord with Oteil, who turns to face him, and embarks on a subsonic journey that you feel at least as much as hear. Warren is just a little flat of the melody (a good thing), using blue notes to season his playing. He takes us on a long sunny ride, but somehow he manages to make it a dark at the same time; think the eye of a hurricane. Stellar work. Warren and Oteil appear totally mind-melded; the entire band is craning their necks in the direction of their nexus of music.
The band deftly puts the song to bed, then rips immediately into “Trouble No More,” a masterful “Mountain Jam” pay-off. Then “Every Hungry Woman,” Warren doing some nice lead work into the twin harmony lines preceding the vocals. A hard, driving finish, and then they peel into “Gambler’s Roll.” Warren’s accents add grit beneath Gregg’s vocals. Then he plays an absolute killer stinging blues solo; Oteil, eyes closed, smiling, is gazing toward heaven. Clearly Oteil digs the real blues.
And speaking of, next thing you hear is a welcome “Schoolgirl” riff.
Out of the “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” verse, Warren begins with his “Spoonful” reference lick, then quickly goes incendiary. Oteil is hard and insistent on the riff. Derek goes the snaky, slidy route on his solo, a marked contrast to Warren’s aggro stomp. Riff, vocals; Warren echoes the last line (“Can I come home wit’ choo”), softer and softer, Derek and Oteil on the riff, also softer and softer, then more prominent. Warren provides delightful accents and tiny little lead lines on the extended play-out. Warren is on fire tonight, playing and singing with conviction and fury.
Next up is one of my long time favorite Allman Brothers numbers, the week-old “Egypt.” Derek begins the instrumental section with wet, rubbery licks that evolve into lines. The whole band– especially Warren and Oteil (the pair are a theme of the evening)– is all over it behind Derek’s wailing. The song has that “still fresh smell”; you can tell they still dig driving it around the block. Indeed they have played it every show but one so far, and you don’t hear me griping.
Warren does some raw, white-knuckle wailing (my notes tell me to fix this phrase; I decided not to). Oteil is so moved, he literally bounces all the way around in a 360 degree circle. I have rarely seen one musician tangibly feed off the energy of another to the extent Oteil feeds off Warren tonight. There is smoke coming off Warren’s strings as he pulls a beautifully executed maneuver back into the soothing, eerie vibe of the song’s chords. I am going to stop typing right now, get up, applaud, and then pick up again.
After leaning hard into an emphatic stop chord, the band dives into “Good Clean Fun.” It seems like a gritty, low down end to a gritty low down set… only it isn’t the end. The Gregg Allman horns come on for “Don’t Keep Me Wondering,” a song where they are not used to best effect because Derek’s full-necked slide solo leaves little space for them. Oteil tosses waves of bottom at the horns, Derek is biting. Next, a glorious “The Same Thing,” in my book the best brass vehicle in this band’s repertoire. The horn section does right by the tasty riff; Warren is feeling it on the vocals. Oteil takes his transformative bass solo mid-jam, then gives it back to Derek and Warren, who are now funkin’ on the one. The horn players take a set of solos, some serious blowin’ going on. Oteil strolls over and joins the team (the horns are on his side of the stage); Derek and Warren are rock steady, and it is as much fun as you can have with your clothes on. Indeed it looks like Oteil might just jump out of his. (PS: I love you, brother.) Derek drives hard, then locks in with Warren on a duel that can’t decide if it is a bitter fight or a hot night of lovemaking. Finally the song ends like a pile driver. It is a mondo highlight, and one killer set. “The Same Thing!” Damn. If you got up right now and went home, you’d have gotten your money’s worth.
Gregg favors us with “Oncoming Traffic” and “Delta Blues” tonight during his acoustic portion. Both are lovely and full of grace. As is “These Days.” Warren and Derek bounce some Delta blues lines off each other, Warren signals Derek, who kicks it into “Old Friend.”
Out of the acoustic set there is some discussion; Warren says something I miss, then says “That’s what the Beacon is for,” and I conclude that they are deviating from the setlist. Which is not an uncommon practice. The band strikes up “Who to Believe.” Warren stings like a butterfly; Derek plays a metallic-edged slide solo. Then a rumbling intro to “Sailin’ Across the Devil’s Sea.”
The horns come back on stage, and Warren makes a dedication to Jaimoe, and the band begins their other best vehicle for horns, “Been Loving You Too Long.” (Jaimoe, of course, played on the Otis original.) It is Warren’s fourth vocal of the evening, all classic covers, and his selections provide a window, I think, on his personal vibe for the day. This is an aching, tortured read, accentuated by the horns. Derek’s weeping solo wrings pain from the nine other players; Warren’s vocals embrace it. The song is cathartic.
“Standback” is all about the riff. It is a hard-charging version. Derek solos high up the neck, then stretches his vamp past the end of the song; clearly he’s got an idea. Then Butch hits the timpani and you know what that idea is, and you second the emotion: the rest of “Mountain Jam.” Sublime Derek riffage finally gives way to the theme; he tosses off parabolic slide lines, each arcing endlessly higher. Now the whole band is in full-on assault, the lead guitar is just another rhythm instrument. Then the music slows; Derek makes magic across the frets, and then puts the movement to rest, only to give way to the very final refrain of the piece, the part at the end that sounds like the beginning. A sweet segue into the theme that bookends the show.
The drummers are onstage first for the encore. (My Beacon buddy Lang from St. Louis, I learn later, has joined in on drums for the encore.) They lay down some brief solo action– perhaps due to Jaimoe’s absence there has been no drum solo this evening– before Oteil strolls out and joins in. The horns are out too, and the band is at least 11 men strong on the rollicking hot potato of a crowd pleaser. Oteil shares a comment with Warren, who laughs, and soon Oteil is beaming; Warren’s lick tickles him, and they are squared off yet again. They are psychically joined here at the end, as they have been all night, a fitting capper.
As I say, worlds apart from the night before, yet equally powerful. I think in Jaimoe’s absence the band ran hotter. He is too important not to be missed; they in turn are too good to let a little adversary spoil a show. As a result, it turned out to be quite a good one.
Be well Jaimoe; see you Thursday.