By MIKE LELLO
13 August 2003
The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader (PA)
SCRANTON – The Allman Brothers Band have been thrilling audiences for more than 30 years. The Southern jam rockers have a massive back catalog to draw from, and thier summer tours arrive like clockwork every season, as it did August 1 at the Ford Pavilion at Montage Mountain.
And while longtime Allmans’ mainstays like ‘Statesboro Blues’ and ‘Midnight Rider’ were highlights, some of the band’s newer material from its recent excellent studio album ‘Hittin’ The Note’ were some of the best played – and most enjoyable – numbers of the night. Case in point: near the end of the group’s set, the 7-piece group slid into ‘Desdemona,’ one of the premier tracks off the new record.
While the majority of the relatively small but enthusiastic crowd of 3,750 hadn’t heard the new song, by its midpoint the masses were on their feet, pumping fists and screaming with joy.
The song begins as a slow, burning blues, focused on Gregg Allman’s heartwrenching vocal, augmented by tasteful guitar from Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes. After gaining a bit of momentum after each verse, the band launched into a fiery jam, spurred by a white-hot duel from Trucks and Haynes above a Latin rhythm. The handful of fans that weren’t won over yet by ‘Desdemona’ were fully supportive when opening act Karl Denson added some spiraling saxophone licks that made the lengthy song a true tour de force, and maybe a new ABB classic.
The other tracks the ABB offered from ‘Hittin’The Note’ were also standouts, from ‘Woman Across The River,’ a strong, funky rocker sung by Haynes, to ‘Young Before My Time,’ a sweet ballad more about Allman’s introspective, soulful singing and lyrics than the group’s renowned instrumental prowess.
That being said, the Allmans are known for jams, and jam they did. Traditionalists will never get over the loss of original guitarists the late Duane Allman and the ousted Dickey Betts, but Trucks and Haynes provided power and grace all night, with the 23-year-old Trucks’ slippery, smooth tone the perfect complement to the veteran Haynes’ bluesier, more muscular sound. On ‘Who’s Been Talking’ Haynes shredded on an old-school Southern rock solo before Trucks – whose uncle Butch Trucks is one of the group’s drummers – unleashed sparkling, crystalline leads that led into an amorphous, psychedelic jam.
Haynes’ ‘Soulshine’ was another fun moment as were tunes like ‘Leave My Blues Home’ and ‘Good Clean Fun,’ but for many attendees, especially Deadheads with Jerry Garcia’s birthday on their minds, the show’s high point came at the end of the set when the Brothers merged their own ‘Instrumental Illness’ into a loose, simmering version of the Dead’s ‘Dark Star,’ with subtle images of Garcia projected on a psychedelic background, before following the drummers’ and bassist Oteil Burbridge’s rumbling rhythms into the Dead’s ‘The Other One,’ only to segue back into ‘Dark Star’ and back into ‘Illness.