We are told that these are to be the last six Allman Brothers Band shows ever. Like, EVER. I’ve seen them an awful lot—a good 150 times. Maybe 120 of those have been since Warren Haynes returned to the fold in March 2001, so this—these seven guys—this is my band. I’ll be sorry to see ‘em go.
I’ll be at all six shows. I can’t decide if that makes this a happy time, or a sad time. I guess I’ll worry about the finality of it all later; for now, let’s just dive deep into the music this one last time…
Opening night. The excitement at the Beacon is always palpable, a living thing; tonight it is especially pronounced, electric. The band opens, as you know they would, with “Don’t Want You No More,” probably their quintessential opener; Derek stings like a bee. “Not My Cross to Bear” is marked by Warren’s sinewy elastic blues lines; Gregg’s vocals drip molasses, the song is rubbery and crunchy. Then Oteil’s big bottom thunder propels “Hot ‘Lanta,” Gregg offers up a swinging organ solo, then each guitarist, then drums—it’s a taut, powerful rendition, and the capper on an emphatic 3-song entrance. “We’re here,” they are telling us, “and we’ll be here a while.”
Derek shreds on “Just Another Rider,” the one original composition on Gregg’s last solo record. A swinging “Done Somebody Wrong,” then Warren steps forward for “Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home.” Marc Quinones rides a spicy percussive high over some funk bass, then Oteil plays Freaky Friday with Warren, playing lead on the bass, while Warren and Derek offer up hard propulsive rhythm playing in return. The band is swinging. Then Warren and Oteil go back to occupying their own bodies, and Warren flies up and down the neck, all the while the band is camped out on the one chord, making this blues a funk. Warren is like a magnet for Oteil, who is drawn into his orbit; they move close together for a guitar/bass duel, before finally the band returns to the song’s riff to close it out. A definite highlight.
Derek is easy breezy on “Aint Wastin’ Time No More,” Warren plays some happy lines. Then “Come On In My Kitchen” is a pleasant surprise, slow, full of bluesy tension that is finally released when they step into double time.
Then comes a sequence that, looking back now, is the highlight of the night for me. It begins when they launch into “True Gravity.” Now, it was nice enough back in the spring when they played this song. But tonight it is huge, epic, majestic, reminiscent of the grand 1996 versions (albeit without a drum solo). The guitars are like two horses running wild through a field. Derek takes a beautiful solo, starting small as the music breathes, loping, racing, building until Warren joins him in harmony, guiding the music back to the theme. I’m hoping to hear this a couple more times…
Out of the hanging final note of “True Gravity” emerges “You Don’t Love Me.” The song proper is relatively brief, with Warren and Derek careening solos off each other. Off the back end they roll into the shuffle jam that in the past had begun the song, and which is more fun than the song itself; tonight this features a jaunty little conversation between Warren and Derek. Then, impromptu, the guitarists decide to take the band into “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” a lovely instrumental version, the rest of the band falling quickly in with them. It is aching and exquisite, and gracefully brings the set to a close. In all, from “True Gravity” on, about 23 minutes of that’s-what-I’m-talkin’-‘bout.
The second set opens with the drums swelling, Derek commenting over the top, then a count-in and it’s “One Way Out.” Next up Stand Back” is, as always, an Oteil showcase, the drummers laying down the groove for him to bounce off of, around, and through. Then “Spots of Time,” still a new song for this band, but tonight full of narrative both vocal and instrumental. There is a moment of sadness—you think to yourself, “this one is coming along nicely, I wonder what it’ll sound like in two years? And then you remember….
The light show for this song now includes imagery of Monument Valley, providing a strong suggestion to hear this one as a cowboy song. Who am I to argue…
“Revival” is up next, a short run-through, closer to the recorded version, as opposed to the extended jam arrangement of the last 9 years or so; it is a tight piece of punctuation. Then “The Sky is Crying.” A slow, 12-bar blues seems too easy for this band, and for some people it can be boring; But the blues is almost like rock’s haiku; the structure so rigid that the artist is actually left free to soar. Tonight Warren plays the hell out of the blues, soars, lays it on extra-thick… then strips it all away… out of the vocals Derek bends fat lines of slide tone. He tortures his poor strings until they cry out in anguish, eliciting an ovation.
Gregg provides a nice, extended solo on “Elizabeth Reed”—not just his “part,” but some serious soloing, as Derek eggs him on. Then the guitar players bring the jam through the reggae classic “Get Up, Stand Up,” and back out the other side Warren makes his guitar wail and cry, as the band sprints forward underneath… then the drum solo, and back for the all-too-brief finish.
“No One Left to Run With” is the encore, like “Revival” a shorter arrangement than in recent years, perhaps owing to the lateness of the hour (it is after all a school night.) It is crunchy, concise, and to the point.
In all I thought it was a solid show, boding well for the next week. For me the first set was the better of the two, but place this solidly in the ‘win” column.