Family business had called me away the night prior, so this was my first show of the run. The first set, I thought, was generally pedestrian, with some soaring during the instrumental; otherwise it was just the basic blues, well-played. But in the second set they brought the dark magic…
The band comes on to a recording of Bill Graham’s intro, I think, to the very last Fillmore show, and opens with “Statesboro Blues.” Butch Trucks and Mark Quinones have swapped positions, with Butch now occupying the center seat in the back line, and Marc on your right. Warren plays some wet slide before handing off to Derek. “Come and Go Blues” features some nice, velvety Derek lines, with Warren taking a majestic lead on the break. Then Warren sings “Down Along the Cove,” which basically gets the “Woman Across the River” treatment, but slower; the basic Allman Brothers Band smokehouse blues.
In “Standback” the band parks on the one chord, and Derek slowly goes to town, stirring up hot fury, Warren totally locked into him on rhythm; then the bouncy riff into the close. It’s an early highlight. Warren plays some big slide in the middle of “Sailing Across the Devil’s Sea”; then a sparse take on “Blind Willie McTell,” with Derek testifying over some churchy organ.
In ‘Bag End,” Warren plays all pretty over some solid boiler room drumming, then he makes a deal with the devil; Oteil locks on, squaring off at Warren, swaying side to side from the waist like he’s made of rubber. Then the band stills, and Derek paints the air, brush strokes giving way to rain drops. Then he takes the band on a little happy march back to the theme… but Warren doesn’t wanna go there. They tease all around it, then bring the song to a close without actually returning to the theme at all. Probably the highlight of the set. Then AJ Ghent comes out on sacred steel for a smashing “One Way Out,” clearly a crowd favorite, to bring us to intermission.
After intermission comes the acoustic set. Derek and Warren start out alone, with “Old Friend.” Gregg, Oteil and Marc join for “Dark End of the Street,” Warren providing nice harmony vocals on the chorus. Then “Done Somebody Wrong,” with a clean, swinging sound, and some nice lead work from Derek.
Now it gets interesting.
The band offers up “Revival,” generally a short song with a long jam. They meander out of the first run-through, Derek explores the “Jessica” lick, then quotes “Fly Me to the Moon.” Warren falls into a call-and-response with Oteil, the drums percolating underneath; then a “Norwegian Wood” tease from Warren, then back into the song to close. The improvisational middle section is new, and decidedly different from the piece they’d been playing in that spot since ’05. Highlight.
Randy Brecker joins the band on outside right, for “Hot ‘lanta.” Which is exciting, because Warren had been quoted as saying this was a song that was going to get a new workout during the run. They work through to the drum break, but the drums come haltingly, with more and more space between the beats… Oteil goes into a bass vamp… Derek squeezes out sheets of slide over the top… Brecker’s trumpet joins the party, a party that is all midnight purple, jazzy, and kind of blue… Derek and Brecker lock into a 2-horn interplay, only of course Derek’s horn is a guitar… then easing into a slow “All Along the Watchtower,” with Warren singing. The pace is such that at any moment, they could seamlessly roll over into “Hit the Road Jack” (they don’t, but you think about it.) Brecker brings clear. piercing brass. Derek takes a nice, long hot soak in the song, then moves into bright, shimmering tone. Back to the vocal, then Warren takes the band down, down to a misty, quite place, playing descending lines, the band is on it with him, the music coalescing back into the “Hot ‘lanta” riff. Now comes that drum break, and back into the song’s close. There are two exclamation points in my notebook, then the word “outstanding.”
So now we’re in that dark, misty, indigo jazzy space, Brecker still on, so when the band almost falls into “Dreams,” it feels pretty obvious, by which I mean, obvious-good. Gregg’s organ throbs, Warren soars. Brecker invokes Miles, blows full, his shiny brass tone filling the house; this mofo is a one man horn section all by himself. Derek comes in, laying out cascades of tone; then Derek and Brecker howl together at the moon, then bang! Back into the return riff. Derek ambles over to Gregg, tosses some slide at him, counts him back in on the vocals. Epic.
Out of “Dreams,” Derek messes around a bit with “Little Martha,” until Butch pounds in his boom boom cadence to”Mountain Jam.” But before they fall into the theme, there’s a stab at “Birdland” featuring Derek, Oteil and Brecker. Then Brecker plays the Jam theme melody, and breaks back into a vamp. leading into sweet Warren lines. No one’s touched the “Mountain Jam” theme in a good 6 mnutes, they haven’t really played it full on at all. We’re pretty clear this is indeed the Jam, but really it is more a battle between “Mountain Jam” and Kind of Blue or “Birdland,” and it isn’t clear who’s winning. Actually, it sounds like everybody’s winning. The entire front line turns to face the drums, Oteil goes into a stop time riff with Marc as Derek and Warren walk off. Oteil syncopates, the drummers follow. Oteil goes into an extended, funky workout that hits me like a massage chair; suddenly my back feels better. Then he scat-sings along with his bass, before giving way to the drum solo section (and joining it.) Out of the drums, now the band is full-on into “Mountain Jam,” arguably the first time they’ve actually played it as opposed to hinted at it all song. A shorter than usual take, but unique, jazzy and glorious.
Brecker and Ghent are on for the encore, and I’ve been to this rodeo often enough to expect “Southbound.” THe drummers suggest it, but Derek and Warren trade very un-Southbound staccato licks, and Gregg isn’t onstage. There’s an extended vamp on a single chord, finally Warren turns to face the drums, hand aloft, and counts 1, 2, 3 on his fingers to finally count in “Southbound.” I look over, and Gregg has taken his place. It’s an extended take and more funk, less country than usual, which is to the good. In the middle Warren grabs a verse, then Gregg picks it up as they derive to a close. It’s a song I don’t usually feature much, but this is a particularly good version.
Both guests were great, but Brecker especially was notable; on for maybe the last third of the show, during which he took them into a decidedly jazzy mode, and the band was solidly up to the task. From “Revival” on the music was fresh and new yet somehow ageless and timeless.