Now where was I? Oh yeah… Saturday…
Done Somebody Wrong
End of the Line
Maydell (no Marc)
Every Hungry Woman
Don’t Think Twice ( w/Susan T)
Feels so Bad ( w/Susan T, Little Milton, No Derek)
Stormy Monday (Little Milton)
Blues is alright (Little Milton)
No One left to Run With
Please Call Home (Gregg on piano)
Oncoming Traffic (Gregg on piano)
These days ( Gregg and Warren)
In Memory of Elizabeth Reed (w/Ron Holloway) > Drums > Bass > (w/Kofi Burbridge) > Liz Reed
Dreams (w/Ron Holloway)
Rocking Horse (Yonrico sits in for Jaimoe)
One Way Out (Yonrico sits in for Jaimoe)
e: Whipping Post
Saturday. The second Saturday of the run is the exclamation point night, the night when the most out-of-towners convene on the Beacon. And of course the band knows it and is primed accordingly.
The anticipation becomes a tangible cloud as Gregg again tinkles out a “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” tease; clearly some kind of inside joke, because he’s done it twice now. Then, bam! “Hot ‘Lanta,” and there they are, in full force. Gregg plays some nice variations on B3. Derek plays a piercing solo, then Warren a more clipped solo. At the end, the drummers infuse some whirling dervish dash into the melody.
Derek is perfect from the very first riff of “Done Somebody Wrong.” He fires off a salvo, and he’s just swinging like he’s in a hammock. The take is more groovular, and less the stop-time shuffle. Derek plays a slashing solo– this is his song now– and then Gregg goes into the closing vocal section. On the outro the band is back into the stop time playing, hitting the beats hard, behind one big, fat hanging Derek note.
On “End of the Line,” Warren plays some pretty, cascading lines, then Derek peels off a squealing lead. Oteil digs in and anchors the riff, and Derek takes off against it. He strikes a discordant note that is resolved as Derek and the band fall back toward each other. Derek’s nouvelle twang takes us out.
Time for the Warren song, and the band kicks into “Maydell.” It is a Saturday-night, good-time version with upbeat guitar work. On “Every Hungry Woman,” Oteil provides the thunderation, Warren and Derek push the music onward with quickly-traded licks. Big sheets of music seem to emanate from the front line. Oteil totally “feels” Warren’s searing, pinched slide; he is bending side to side with the music, literally at the waist. Oteil has become a swinging human metronome. Derek keeps the energy going; then he and Warren trade licks, and finally come together for the twin harmony lines.
Susan Tedeschi comes onstage for a mini-spotlight section. First, “Don’t Think Twice,” the beautiful virtual duet with Derek. Derek’s sweet round slide lines compliment and contrast with Susan’s throaty vocals. Derek imbues the melody with a sense of wistful melancholy. Then Little Milton takes the stage for a return engagement, and Susan stays out, in Derek’s spot, for “Feel So Bad.” The opening riff of the song is immediately recognizable, and it is a welcome choice. Milton leads the band on the intro section, then Gregg sings the first vocal section. Milton (or as his friends call him, Little) takes the second verse, ceasing his guitar work as he sings. Then a rousing round robin of solos; Susan is up first, and she totally cuts. Milton’s solo is economical and spot on. Gregg sings, then Milton, then some hand clapping that is picked up by he crowd. Alas, Susan doesn’t get a verse.
Next up is “Stormy Monday,” a song that always feels like a warm bath as soon as the opening chords are struck. Gregg sings the first verse, then Milton takes a verse. Milton’s vocals give way to some sweet Milton guitar lines; this song is definitely in his zone, in a way that the band’s more hard-driving material might not be. Derek is back, and he cuts the slices extra thick on his solo, big fat juicy notes filling the hall. Gregg’s organ playing is present and soulful; his solo is a highlight. It gives way to Warren’s stinging, slightly wobbly, beautiful solo on the 335. Milton milks out one more sweet solo over the chord progression before the band moves back into the final verse. A perfect vehicle for Little Milton, and a highlight.
Next up is what I gather is Little Milton’s signature song, “The Blues is Alright,” the only repeat from the previous night’s Milton sit-in. The man simply oozes show biz. The band is percolating on the beats; he has clearly brought his “A” game. It is a different game than the Allman Brothers Band generally plays; far more polished and refined, more mainstream. But still, it is the blues. The ease with which they find common ground is noteworthy. Milton plays a precise, economical solo; then Derek is right in the pocket on a relatively straightforward (for him) blues solo. Milton’s rhythm playing dances along with the shuffle, leading back into his sing-along vocals (“Hey! Hey! The blues is alright!”) Warren breaks into a wide smile as Milton soaks up the crowd’s response, takes off his guitar, and leaves the stage before the song is over. Immediately Warren and Derek turn things up to a boil on a quick volley, and then out.
“No One Left to Run With” closes the set, a hard driving version courtesy of the drum section. Derek soars high above the “shave and a haircut, two bits” shuffle.
“Welcome to part two,” says Gregg as he launches into the delicious “Please Call Home,” and follows it with “Oncoming Traffic.” While some may criticize the decision to begin the second set with an acoustic interlude, Gregg’s easy banter with the crowd, and his obvious joy in delivering his two solo numbers each night, tends to leave at least one reviewer wanting more (for those loathe to read between the lines, that would be me.) “These Days,” which they have played every night so far, has been getting steadily better, and it started good. What began as a Gregg tune backed by Warren has by tonight evolved into a splendid and moving duet, Warren’s vocal harmonies enriching the lyric, and Gregg’s adventurousness on acoustic guitar enriching the music. Tonight it seems especially poignant; Warren’s elegiac guitar work is lovely, and Gregg seems to take an extra pause after the line, “Don’t confront me with my failures,” lending it that much more gravity.
The acoustic set is truncated tonight, as the band skips the Warren/Derek duet slot and moves, after everyone is assembled and settled, into a smoking read on “Elizabeth Reed.” Frequent Mule guest Ron Holloway sits in on sax. After some nice two-guitar explorations, the band locks onto the theme, and then the first solo is Holloway, brassy, biting. Oteil smiles at him, offers up some bass phrases, as Warren directs traffic in Derek’s direction. Derek crafts a mellifluous solo, playing happy games with the melody, bending it like Einstein bent time. He embarks on a melodic climb that is sheer, in-the-moment be-bop. Derek is doing what he does best—forcing himself away from the melodic structure of the song so that he has to play in the now, with no time for his brain to get between his ears and fingers. Soon Derek’s blistering lead is indistinguishable from Warren’s accompanying, equally fast chording. Gregg takes the spotlight; he percolates like he’s good to the last drop.
Oteil is totally grooving on a Holloway sax lead, which reaches a crescendo, from whence a Warren solo emerges. Warren is tossing off notes like he’s bailing water. Oteil locks onto him, then trades lines with Holloway, as the band descends into drums…
There is some high-end, trebly stop time, becoming a bold brassy beat with the cymbals riding high on top. All three drummers are affecting the collective beast by varying the waves of sound each sends forth. There is a drum roll-call and response. Some nights, the drum solo is a living, breathing organism, responding in real time to the care and feeding each player provides; this is clearly one of those nights. Butch tosses in the rhythm he does that is reminiscent of the Dead’s “The Other One,” the beast morphs accordingly.
You begin to feel a rumble on the bottom. It is Oteil, who emerges from the shadows and drops his calling card into the mix. Soon the drums recede, and Oteil is on the 6-string, offering up “Amazing Grace.” Oteil’’s faith informs his playing in the most joyous ways imaginable. He moves from chords to barrages of notes, generally reminiscent of George Benson’s guitar style. At one point he seems to be teasing the melody to the Yes song “Roundabout;” but that can’t be right– can it? Soon his brother Kofi joins on flute, the drums return, and Kofi trills beautiful bird-like lines that ride the bass/drum groove, a groove that is distinctly not “Elizabeth Reed.” The band returns, and Oteil thunders into the riff, as Kofi points to him with the flute.
The song—including the drum section and the Oteil spotlight—has been a seamless journey, dark, mysterious, powerful, and like so many of this band’s excursions, ending in the place they started, but somehow transformed.
The relatively early appearance of the drum solo this run seems to open up the possibilities for the rest of the set. “Dreams” is the perfect follow-up, right in the “Liz Reed” vibe zone. Holloway stays out, and he takes the first solo, before the vocals. Derek is like a razor’s edge, underneath, around him. Gregg delivers the opening portion of the vocals, taking us to the precipice, And that is Derek’s cue. He squeezes off full, languid lines, extended, graceful. It is a sublime piece of work. Warren presses him forward, and Derek continues his narrative. He ends up unleashing a furious attack of high blue slide. Warren brings the band back into waltz time for the final movement.
Jaimoe gives way to Yonrico Scott, and it seems as if Warren is calling an audible, leading the band into “Rocking Horse,” a blast of intensity after the moody combo of “Liz Reed” and “Dreams.” On his solo, he gets to that place where the one hand is strumming madly, but the other hand is fretting out a lead. After the transition riff Derek starts off in Birdland, taking his time on be-bop slide blues guitar (sometimes the faster Warren plays, the faster Derek doesn’t.) He deliberately moves his glass slide across the neck. But soon, and so masterfully you don’t realize how he’s done it, he is playing at breakneck pace; his solo is the sound of steel and glass, superheated until they have bonded chemically into one. Warren joins for the transition riff that takes us back to earth and the finish of the song; then immediately the band is into the glorious release of “One Way Out.” It is pure, boogie-shoes pay-off, a joyous romp, featuring some lunch box blues from Warren.
It has been a relatively long show—the “Elizabeth Reed” was a marathon—but if you’re paying even a little bit of attention, you have no doubt at all that “Whipping Post” is coming up as encore. The band enters the song all dark and foreboding. Derek shreds between vocal passages. Warren strikes a note that resonates at the exact frequency of the Beacon Theater, then takes off on the melody, touching back to it, plowing away. The whole band falls into the zone behind him. Warren and Derek play furiously into the song’s signature march sequence, then Gregg sing/shouts the “Sometimes I FEEL” line. It is an exclamation point for an exclamation point night.
A real barn burner, a true Saturday night show; there is nothing subtle about the assault of the second set after the acoustic portion. Looking back, it is almost hard to imagine that this was the same night you saw Little Milton. From “Elizabeth Reed” on, this was wave after wave of bluesy pummeling and release. It feels so good when it stops. And better when it doesn’t.