Allman Brothers keeps sound fresh
New tunes fortify Southern rock classics
14 July 2003
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Copyright (c) 2003 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.
MANSFIELD — With history behind it and young blood out front, the Allman Brothers Band continues to defy the laws of gravity and physics.
The band’s two-plus-hour show last night at the Tweeter Center was buoyant and spry in ways one would hardly expect from a hard- living blues rock band in its 34th year.
Much of the liveliness can be attributed to the fierce guitar work of Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes. Trucks in particular opened up songs with soulful and intelligent solos that belied his young age. The in-out-and-back-again Haynes was the muscle guy, playing the hard, tough licks once owned by Dickey Betts, a founding brother fired two years ago.
This lineup of the Allmans — driven by Gregg Allman and rounded out by bass player Oteil Burbridge and the killer drum combine of Butch Trucks, Jaimoe and Marc Quinones — is a bit more formulaic in style than the vintage lineup of the band, but it did not play it safe at the Tweeter show, marking the last night of the current leg of its summer tour.
The band opened up with Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla,” an inspired choice that paid homage to founding Allman Brothers Band member Duane Allman, who cut the tune in the supergroup with Eric Clapton shortly before Duane Allman’s death in 1971. Derek Trucks was eerily Duanesque in both look and sound as he sliced through the classic tune that was a generational anthem before he as even born.
That freewheeling feel permeated the Allman set, which made left turns into such interesting terrain as “Good Morning Little School Girl” and Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.” Haynes’ delicate lead on “Mystic” opened up a new side to this versatile player’s myriad skills.
A slew of classic Allman Brothers Band tracks bolstered all the fresh and fun stuff. Early on Gregg Allman showed himself to be in fine form with gutbucket readings of “Trouble No More” and “Statesboro Blues.”
And the overall good health of this year’s Allman Brothers Band was evident on a heartfelt reading of “Melissa,” which featured Allman out front on acoustic guitar.
NOT JUST NOSTALGIA
This year’s installment of the never-ending Allmans saga was made more interesting with the inclusion of several new songs from the band’s recent studio record, “Hittin’ the Note.” The blues-rocking “Firing Line,” ballad “Desdemona” and crazed epic “Instrumental Illness” all hit the mark and proved the Allman Brothers Band is hardly a nostalgia act.
The new tunes seemed to fortify the classics, with revelatory versions of “Dreams” and “Midnight Rider” demanding attention; these were no mere classic rock songs served up cafeteria style. Rather, Derek Trucks and Haynes reinvented the songs with fresh leads and newly realized details.
The Allman Brothers Band has had its ups and downs over the years, and this is definitely an up year of the sort when the band’s stylized brand of electrified Southern blues simply turns the air thick.
Susan Tedeschi played a powerful opening set highlighted by some extended jams featuring Derek Trucks, her husband, as a guest guitar foil. Members of Trucks band also ambled on to pump up Tedeschi’s set. But the locally bred guitar goddess is doing fine on her own, showing how her blues-based sound continues to push the boundaries into pop and soul terrain.