By: Doug Collette
For All About Jazz
Feb 17, 2004
In 2003, The Allman Brothers Band effectively completed a rejuvenation of themselves like no other act in rock history. The seminal Southern rock band achieved the profoundly difficult tasks of recapturing both their aesthetic credibility and commercial viability. This, after longs years of enduring internecine warfare, multiple tragedies of bandmembers’ deaths, on top of the usual rock syndrome of bad business dealings and the demons of drugs and alcohol. Long in the shadow of the Grateful Dead in the pantheon of improvisational rock and roll bands, ABB have accomplished what the Dead are still trying to do, and which few if any artists of their longevity (aside perhaps from Bob Dylan) have ever been able to do, that is, restore themselves to full power as writers, musicians, performers and recording artists.
It has been, arguably, a longer and stranger trip for the Allmans because the process of revitalizing themselves was a fitful one, the end result of a step-by-step injection of fresh young blood—Derek Trucks and Oteil Burbridge– into a band of brothers who had to jettison one of their own—Dicky Betts—to unleash all the firepower at their command. However, It wasn’t until the return of a prodigal son who had once been ejected from the group—Warren Haynes—that the necessary personal and artistic bonding took place to allow the music itself to flourish.
What is perhaps most miraculous is that all this has been accomplished without the self-consciousness that comes from carrying as much myth as legacy. Never once did the Allmans seem a dinosaur act: the collective loyalty to their original inspiration , embodied by the mystic intangible of ‘hittin’ the note’ drew the best from everyone in the band no matter who was in the lineup, even though the inspiration came at times from an unlikely source—for instance, the temporary enlistment of guitarist Jimmy Herring, whose dream of Allmans music rekindled a spirit of adventure long lost in the group prior to Betts’ departure.
The Allman Brothers set themselves up for the long haul years ago with annual stints at the Beacon Theatre each March inaugurating their own new year prior to the summer long jaunts across the country that allow individual band members to pursue their own interests in the considerable off times. 2004 is no exception to that schedule, except that, with a new double live cd due out during this year’s NYC run, only a year after the release of a studio album that garnered almost unanimously positive reviews, The Allman Brothers stand poised to ride their own momentum. Fully aware how quickly times can change, they have learned just as surely how patience and perseverance pays off.