I was unable to get inside the theater in time for all of Derek’s opening set. I heard the strains of “Volunteered Slavery” snake over the water from outside the arena… Later, inside, “Key to the Highway” creates a bluesy freneticism, then goes all hush before Derek lets loose and tears it up… Quinones sits in on an instrumental segue that becomes “Greensleeves;” Derek spats out waves of jazz, and comes out the back end of the jam with laser melodies, before the band moves into piano-led dissonance… on the closing “I Wish I Knew,” Kofi plays some round, sweet melodic flute; Derek falls into the pocket, rides the melody, then barely keeps it on the tracks driving to the finish. A solid, sublime opening set, which would have been better received if more of the cognoscenti had seen fit to leave the apparent luxury of the parking lot and come inside to… well, receive it.
Come and Go Blues
Woman Across the River
Every Hungry Woman
Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’
Hoochie Coochie Man
Afro Blue (w/Roy Haynes)
You Don’t Love Me >
Elizabeth Reed > Jabuma > Oteil > Liz Reed
A casual walk-on, some last-minute tuning, and then “Hot ‘Lanta” is just there. Gregg’s sweet chords punctuate the music, spur it on. Derek purrs and snarls over crunchy Warren rhythm work; Oteil locks and sways. Then a hanging transition note, then Warren takes a dark lead that gives way to the drum break.
Warren plays slide on ‘Statesboro Blues.” It is familiar, almost inevitable, but the song is loose, greasy, it has Happy Feet. Gregg’s vocals are strong, and he plays some barrelhouse piano leading into Derek’s slide attack; Derek is particularly elastic and rubbery, and stretches it through into Gregg’s final verse.
Derek conjures a warm breeze even though the sun is setting now, bringing in “Come and Go Blues.” Warren’s solo work is stinging, tuneful, in the pocket, straight from his gut right to yours.
“Woman Across the River” begins an 8-song run through the deep blues that is the heart of the set. Warren goes vocals, solo, vocals, solo; the second solo, extended, is a taut excursion down to the delta. Gregg rides the wave; then another vocal section, and then the action begins. Derek lays in a high, hard one that slaps into the catcher’s mitt for a resounding strike, the kind where the batter turns around and all the ump can do is shrug. Warren plays round, hard notes with a wicked laugh; slowly, out of time. Then he’s picked it up, and Derek joins in, and the two guitars are playing one solo, grabbing at it, tugging it to and fro, yanking it out of each other’s hands. Soon its shred fest at Tiffany’s, into a furious, multi-colored crescendo, then out. A big, humble, evil Warren Haynes grin seems to loom in the night sky. Maybe its just the video screens…
Underneath the leads, both guitarists offer chording that is jaunty but shifting, that responds in real time to the solo, interacts with it, all the while sticking hard on the groove. The rhythm guitar playing may be the most underappreciated aspect of the Allman sound right now, because while one guy is playing rhythm, the other guy is blowing your mind.
On Every Hungry Woman,” Warren is over by Derek as they trade hot lines over the hard bop of the one-chord stomp. The twin licks are big and glassy, and Derek morphs one into a shimmering solo, all soaring, full, watery; then he’s chording as Warren plays a dirty skronk. Back and forth they go; Warren is electric, nasty. Oteil gets on his thumpadump pony and rides as the two guitarists pull away against each other; they play in unison, one chording as the other solos, then seamlessly reversing. Then the twin licks, and bam, the two voices converge as the band stampedes through the tumbling riff. Big, noir-ish, and a highlight.
The “wheeerrrr” of the “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’” riff emerges, a lazy shimmer over a driving beat. It comes right out of the heart of “Every Hungry Woman,” Derek’s cat scratches strafe the sky, a four minute blast.
Warren steps forward and offers a slide workout that briefly evokes “Amazing Grace” before going blue. Then Derek twists your head into a pretzel, earside out. It is the sound of metal folding in on itself; he finds a ton of room at the top of the fretboard. Warren goes all molten lava; then Derek takes one blinding white note from your groin and pulls it straight out the top of your head. Then he dives down, cascading notes, into the rumble of “Hoochie Coochie Man.” Warren’s vocals are prominent; Oteil and the drummers drive the tank.
“Melissa” provides a ginger re-introduction to major keys; in the context of this set it is almost a palette cleanser before the band dives back into the Real Folk Blues. On the outro solo, Warren plays rubbery, chiming notes.
Drummer Roy Haynes is in the house, and of course that means “Afro-Blue,” Haynes sitting in on Jaimoe’s kit. He kick-starts the song with a solo that is a one-man exercise in syncopation, then Oteil and Derek lay down some “Afro-Blue” space before easing gracefully into the riff; Derek picks up the beat and begins the melody, joined by Warren; they play around with the lick of the song’s theme, sharing it, understated. Derek slides through his first solo, over Roy Haynes and Oteil; he rains asymmetric puddles across the sky, flits like a blue faerie around the melody, never intercepting it. Then Derek plays boxy little patterns for Warren to poke and jab through, all the while Roy makes it swing. On the back of a gentle Oteil note, Warrens signals the band to rest, and as the music falls away Roy is there, tumbling, forward-rushing syncopation, with heavy cymbal work. Its less a drum solo than a parting of the curtains. Soon Derek picks up the beat, takes one more fluid, jazzy solo against some stylish Warren chording, then uses a slide blues approach to take the band back into the theme, an exquisite transition. The song is a highlight. A summer highlight.
“You Don’t Love Me”, without the intro section, features Warren’s bluesy playing and Gregg’s throaty, somehow summery vocals. A standard issue rendition, until the band runs headlong into that extended question mark of a pause, where the song proper is done and the exploration begins. Derek steps up and brings it, posing musical thoughts that drift straight up on the night air. Soon it’s a conversation with Warren, the band just barely there underneath, what’s there mostly drum accepts and flourishes. This gives way to a Warren/Derek boogie, then a turnaround that leads seamlessly into “The Weight,” dirty, perfect. Warren busts out into a skronky solo before Derek even has a chance to finish his riff, the song vamps out with Warren’s vocals and Derek’s slippery glassy slide runs doing a call and response.
“Midnight Rider,” like “Melissa,” seems like a palette cleanser, especially after this heavy dose of the blues, Afro and otherwise. Over the outro, Derek sanctifies the space, clearing the air without really pausing for what will inevitably be…
…”In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” Derek tweases out airy lines at the top of the neck. The riff is exquisite, twin ringing guitar tones, then into the fire. Derek plays some slinky slide lines, then Gregg lays down his solo part, then Warren emerges gently from the mist, and you are swept away by the breeze off the water… without you noticing, Warren has accelerated into hyperdrive. The drummers step to the fore, Warren eases off, the band pulls up… indecision… Derek chords, Oteil bomps, then Warren plays what sounds like the chords to “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad,” Derek joins in, and it seems briefly like they’re going to go off into it. But they peel collectively off and back into the “Elizabeth Reed” theme, led by Warren, slamming hard up against the drum section.
The drums ebb and flow, bathed in blues and purples. Marc goes all jaunty on his middle movement… Oteil drops a bomb to bring the drum section to a halt, then plays some jazzy harmonic melody that becomes an inverted jazz take on “Amazing Grace.” He adds vocals on the top like a chef adding cayenne to the chili. He moves to the “Elizabeth Reed” melody, then flips a switch, dropping the bass line, scatting along with it. Derek is back now, chording underneath, pushing Oteil back toward the song. The drums kick in. Then Derek steps forward with the chords of the run back into the song; Warren improvises over furious Derek strumming. Soon they are trading licks, faster, and it is impossible to tell where Warren ends and Derek begins. Finally they fall back onto the riff, and out.
“No One Left to Run With” is the encore, the crowd cheering the images of fallen brothers in the slide show as the Bo Diddley beat reverberates across the bay,s ending us off into the good night.
Jones Beach is a great venue, and the band never disappoints there. This was a top notch show, blues as opposed to lilt, low down dirty mean. The Instant Live recording only reinforces the power, especially the stretch from the middle of “Woman Across the River” through “The Weight.”