THE MIDDLE SATURDAY: NOTHING SPECIAL, JUST PURE BLUESY GREATNESS
Brian Stoltz joins for “Same Thing;” Band hits the note all night long on classics and blues
Don’t Want You No More >Its Not My Cross To Bear
Can’t Lose What You Never Had
Who’s Been Talking?
Come And Go Blues
Shake For Me
Who To Believe
The Same Thing (Brian Stoltz)
What makes some shows turn out to be special? Sometimes it’s the setlist, sometimes it’s the guests. But other times… what is it? Did Jaimoe eat a good breakfast? Did Warren put on an old pair of pants and find $25 he’d forgotten about in the pocket? Did Oteil get a good night’s sleep? Was Mars in Jupiter?
There was nothing really special, nothing out of the ordinary Saturday night, but it seemed to be one of those special nights. I don’t know why, but everything worked. From the first song, it seemed that there was a little extra zing, even though much of the evening the playing was a little laid back. Indeed the laid back confidence was part of what worked so well. And it was a blue evening; two Muddy Waters songs, two Howlin’ Wolf, plus “Preachin’ Blues” and “Not My Cross to Bear.” But if I over-analyze it, all I’ll do is spoil the magic.
Gregg jumps right in with his solo on “Don’t Want You No More,” electric, present. Derek pierces the night; Warren announces himself with clear, ringing stinging tone. On “Not My Cross to Bear” Warren skronks over Oteil’s walk, and plays lines sympathetic to Gregg’s vocals. Derek squeezes out the mojo; then Gregg’s road weary vocals over twin guitars. Together these two songs strike deep into the mother lode of what Allman Brothers music is all about; together they remain the perfect opener…
…and then right into “Can’t Lose What You Never Had,” which has been transformed fully from the cascading licks of the record to a very “Gilded Splinters” kind of vibe. Warren does an extended blues burn over the groovular riff.
Oteil lays a deft foundation for “Who’s Been Talkin’,” with Marc and the drummers. Derek enters, moving like a bee from flower to flower. Warren plays some ominous voodoo leading into the vocal section, then plays a low simmer. Derek solos, straining against the limits of the standard blues form; Warren seems to interrupt him with the song’s lick, but Derek stops on a dime, smiling at Oteil as Warren takes the band back into the song. Warren turns in toward Derek, sends him a signal with a small guitar flourish, then Warren and Derek go to town, but in a restrained way; Jaimoe is keeping steady easy time, right in the pocket. The music falls away to almost nothing, just soft drums… and… Warren… brings the band… to a close.
I love “Who’s Been Talkin.’”
Warren’s solo on “Come and Go Blues” hews close to the song; Derek shreds all over the place. There is no extended outro.
Next up is “Shake for Me,” the Howlin’ Wolf song that has an Allmans connection owing to Duane’s appearance on John Hammond’s cover. Warren strums the riff as Derek goes briefly off script; then vocals. It is a different song than it had been opening night with Hubert Sumlin, who had kept it grounded in the early 60s. Warren shakes it, then back to the vocals, then Derek spins out a line that shape-shifts the song into a spacey one-chord guitar dance. Warren locks down the rhythm, Derek embarks on a furious slide run, climaxing in the band turning back over into the I-IV-V blues again, while Derek just keeps on tearing up over the top. A highlight; killer.
Next up is the set piece, “Desdemona.” In his solo, Derek plays a full chunk of “My Favorite Things” (which is always just out of reach on the instrumental mid-section) right in the middle of his ultra-violet solo. Then he changes colors to white-hot, and trades riffs with Warren, who plays a slowly building solo, moving back to the song for the flip back into the verse section.
On “Hot ‘lanta” Oteil is busy underneath, as Derek splays ordinance around the room; then Warren plays a less abstract, more linear solo. The drummers stamp a brief exclamation point out, and a sparkling, crisp version comes to a close.
Derek begins the next song as a lone voice, asking a blues question; the answer turns out to be “The Weight.” Derek is all over the licks that define the melody in this version, then picks up the rhythm part as Warren takes a solo that is as sweet and sour as the whole arrangement. Then Warren moves to big fat juicy butterfly shrimp. Then the final verse, and a bluesy in-the-pocket grind. Each time they play this song they are getting closer and closer to that perfect statement it will have become by July.
Outstanding, loose, bluesy set.
Derek and Warren begin the second set alone, Derek playing electric country blues, Warren vocalizing against him, guitar slung over his shoulder. Then Warren begins the verse, and it is “Preachin’ Blues,” tasty, just Derek on slide and Warren singing. Next is “Who to Believe, taken (to my ears) a tad slower than usual, a murkier version, and all the better for it. Warren’s guitar makes articulate statements between the verses. Warren lays on the Barbeque hot sauce, his solo es muy picante. Derek plays an ascending solo. This may be the best version of “Who to Believe” I’ve heard.
Brian Stoltz of the Funky Meters comes on for a guitar-heavy “Same Thing.” Often during this song Oteil uses his solo to flip it from a blues to a funk, but tonight it stays blue. Stoltz opens with a taut, clipped, tasty solo, then wails; Derek is hanging with Oteil. Warren peels off a few rounds, then the first vocal section. Then Warren locks in with Oteil and they weave together, before Warren hands off to Derek, who solos over a bed that sounds like mostly Oteil and drums (the other players are playing, but softly.) Then the three guitar players exchange volleys, yielding to a furious lead by Warren, and slamming to a close.
Gregg comes center stage for “Melissa,” the beginning of a note-perfect 4-song close. It is “Melissa,” plain and simple; Warren paints a rainbow across a water color sky.
Next, “Dreams.” It is one of those moments where it feels like there could not be a more perfect song for right this second, and the beautiful, lazy waltz falls over the Beacon like a cool rain shower on a hot summer day. The solo begins with a patented fat sideways note that lets you know it could only be Derek Trucks. He begins with easy, sinewy lines, then soon it is full metal notes hanging in the air; Marc is hammering them down. Then Derek makes a grand statement, further on up the neck. Warren sanctifies the space after Derek’s run, then back into the vocals. Time has ceased to matter; I cannot begin to guess how long Derek has played. Time has pretty much gone out the window for the rest of the night.
Right out of “Dreams,” Butch calls us together for “Mountain Jam.” Derek’s solo begins with a restatement of the song’s theme, giving way to sheets of sheer peach noise, then a jaunty melodic run, then more peachy sheets. The music parts, and Gregg shines through; the front line all turn to watch as he plays the low down blues. Then Warren solos, playing a straight line between “Mountain Jam” and that drummy place, where he parks it for Jabuma. Jaimoe is driving the bus tonight, both his colleagues are focused on him. There is more space than usual in the music of Jamuma; it breathes. My Beacon buddy Lang (a drummer himself) has said, “Butch is boom, Jaimoe is click; that’s them.” Tonight Jabuma clicks and shimmies.
Oteil comes on and picks up the cool jazz vibe, plays it, embodies it, then resolves to a funk groove. The guitars join. Warren strums a few chords to telegraph to the band to bring it down; the drums roll forward over the top, and like that the band tumbles seamlessly into the march section. If there has been any kind of point to the evening’s proceedings, Derek neatly summarizes it all on his lead. The march ends, the band comes this close to a full stop, Derek vamps, they fall to a grinding halt, Derek shimmers, Marc lights into the timpani, the drums fall in. Derek plays “Birdland” over the drummers, then the band slides back into the theme. Outstanding.
Saturday night, the set proper closes with “Dreams” and “Mountain Jam,” and surely there can be no doubt what is coming. Oteil rumbles into “Whipping Post,” the only song that could end this gig. Derek soars over insistent drums, soft Gregg chording, and Oteil’s solid bottom, taking impressionistic flights. Derek comes just up to the boiling point, then eases back to a simmer; near to a boil, then a simmer. The rich savory aroma of his cooking fills the house. The vocals, then Warren shows similar restraint on his solo, playing to a slow build, then almost a full stop. The band holds its place, Warren works slowly over to the final movement, playing ugly beautiful blues runs, then falling into the march of the damned souls. His playing is full, dazzling, hits you in the heart. Oteil echoes from below, then he and Warren lock together as its back to the races, culminating in “Sometimes I feeeel…”
Why did this show hit so squarely in the ABB-spot? Scientists still don’t know. But the little girls understand…