(Rob Barraco, Kofi Burbridge filling on for Gregg Allman)
Gregg is absent, Warren tells us, with bronchitis, but Kofi Burbridge is stationed at Gregg’s organ, and across the stage Rob Barraco is set up on keyboards. Immediately it is hard not to think about 3/25/12, the closing night of the 2012 Beacon run, when Gregg was out with back trouble; that night the show was so musically overstuffed and packed with guests, that it turned out to be the best show of the run. So this may not auger poorly at all…
And after Warren’s brief announcement, the band rolls into “Mountain Jam,” the guitar players offering all their favorite teases– “Third Stone,” “Birdland,” “Norwegian Wood.” Kofi provides some nice organ work, then there’s some pretty two-guitar flutter… Warren counts in “Statesboro Blues” and handles the vocals, indeed singing the hell out of the thing. Barraco plays some nice barrelhouse, Warren spanks the monkey.
On “Worried Down With the Blues” Kofi plays some sad, soulful church organ, Derek some big fat soulful slide. Warren rings out clear as a big sad bell, then a slow, aching two-guitar finish. It’s a highlight. Then Derek’s slide work heralds “Every Hungry Woman,” another Gregg song with Warren singing; the two guitarists shovel some hot lava back and forth, then on the outro Derek cools it down, Warren turns it back up to full boil, and a frenetic trading of lines melts together into one four-handed lead.
On “Seven Turns” Susan Tedeschi comes on to provide Gregg’s answer vocals (“Somebody’s calling your name…”) and Derek tarts it up, Derek style. Then Susan stays on for a ferocious version of “Stand Back,” Barraco lays down some funky wah-wah keys, Oteil and Marc go to funkytown together, Barraco plays some free form jazz keyboard, then Derek slides us back into the song. But it’s not a song– it’s a party. And another highlight.
The keyboard payers switch sides for “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” which features Bill Evans on an extended, wild man sax solo. The band accelerates, falls in behind him, then rolls off into the song’s riff; Warren sings a couple of lines into his megaphone, Derek plays some snaky, glassy slide, then embarks on a descending run that pulls time down a rabbit hole, and the band comes out the other side, blazing.
Of course Barraco takes the Chuck Leavell solo spotlight in “Jessica,” eventually falling into the familiar keyboard runs, but with his own signature, pounding attack. The guitars rain down notes, fluttering together, then Warren runs the song down and into a big, epic finish.
A “Little Martha” > “Blue Sky” segue opens the second set, reminiscent of the same 1-2 punch in the same slot on March 8. On “Blue Sky” Warren waits to enter, comes in slow, then Derek takes a run, and Barraco does the Snoopy happy dance. Warren plays a hard, rough solo, spilling over the sides of the song, then he mind melds with Barraco into the harmony licks.
Devon Allman and Bernie Marsden (Whitesnake) some on for “One Way Out;” before which Warren plugs Devon’s late night gig with Royal Southern Brotherhood at BB King’s. Devon sings of course, everybody gets their licks in.
Bill Evans on sax, and Kofi on flute, lend a jazzy air to the always-dark and moody “Who’s Been Talkin’,” before Warren even gets around to the opening vocals; Warren stretches out the Santana-infused lines that bring the song in, going round and round. Finally the singing starts, Derek answering the vocal lines; Barraco pounds out a stylish solo, then Derek run all the way up the neck and cries for his supper, then tosses out stylish little lines around Warren’s “the causin’ of it all” refrains, a slow, extended coda to bookend the juicy beginning.
On “Franklin’s Tower” Derek and Barraco chord together behind Bill Evans, who blows the roof off the sucka on an extended solo. Then Barraco goes for a jaunty run (he’s familiar with this territory from the PLQ days) over a crunchy chugga chugga. Oteil gets busy at the top of his fret board, joined by the drummers, then Derek and Warren come back in, first offering what sounds like a “Lovelight” tease. But soon the band embraces it, and Oteil steps to the mic and sings the first verse of “Lovelight”; Susan comes out with guitar to sing a verse, and it’s a very happy room; I’m not clear whether or not “Lovelight” was on the setlist or an audible… then they go back and finish “Franklin’s Tower.” After the song is over, Oteil sings out “Let it shine, shine, shine” as a final piece of punctuation to the joyful medley.
Susan takes lead vocals for “The Sky is Crying,” deep throaty blues mama wailing, and all three guitarists get their 12-bar rocks off, a fun crowd pleaser. Then Derek and Warren take turns crafting slow, little, swampy, bluesy slide delta poems, which give way to “Hoochie Coochie Man,” but taken at Muddy Waters speed (i.e. slow), like sitting on a front porch on a hot sticky day. Then they flip into the song’s usual tempo for the back half.
Evans is back on for “Elizabeth Reed;” Kofi takes a flute solo out of the opening theme, then Derek, then Evans is the big bopper, taking the band on a long jazzy run. Warren begins a solo low key in no hurry to pounce; all the players eyes are on him, waiting, ready to respond. Of course he turns it up, soon trading call-and-response lines with Evans; they fall into the twin licks of the song, then they fall apart and play different but intertwined smoldering lines at the same time… a drum solo interlude, a cool refreshing dip in the lake… the guitars return with long, stretchy taffy-pull lines, pulling the band into an upbeat frenetic jam… Warren wails into the “Liz” melody, then the theme and an emphatic set close.
Derek and Warren come on to do “Preachin’ Blues,” which inevitably gives way to the back end of “Mountain Jam.” Warren and Evans trade lines as Derek bends sheets of tone into mobius strips. The whole extended band comes on in shimmering, mountainous, jamming waves, to a thunderous close.
I’m willing to bet no one asked for their money back.