Allman Brothers Band

March 17, 2013
Beacon Theatre
New York, NY

Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by Kimberly Annette

The grand institution of rock ‘n roll offers a plethora of experiences to anyone willing and curious enough to dig a little deeper. There’s the pilgrimage to Liverpool for Beatlemanics. Caravans of red-eyed tied-dyed earthworms followed the Grateful Dead around for decades. And today’s meet-and-greets provide once-in-a-lifetime alliances — fleeting and disingenuous, yet satisfying for fans and profitable for artists, so everybody wins. I’ve checked off a few items on my rock ‘n roll bucket list and seeing the Allman Brothers Band on the final night of their annual March run at New York's Beacon Theatre is one I will cherish for years to come.

The hoedown at the Beacon had been itching at my craw ever since I caught the Allmans with the Doobie Brothers at the LA Greek in 2009, but it’s been a tradition since 1989. When I heard they added an eleventh, closing night and it fell on St. Patrick’s Day, my Irish brain seized upon the idea of being there without spilling the Guinness. The plan was set: I would join my fellow paddy muckers in NYC for a bit of reverie and sightseeing, then head uptown to the legendary theatre, which opened in 1929. Indeed, the Beacon is a premier venue for concerts. Humongous sculptured gold-leafed warriors flank each side of the stage, while Egyptian figures and restored murals bedeck the building’s lofty interior. It’s made for world-class entertainment and the acoustics are epic.

The show was scheduled to begin early, around 7:00. I even received an e-mail, informing me it had been moved up an hour from the previous shows. But this is the Allman Brothers Band — they answer to no one and can go on any damn time they want. A few innocuous words from Maria Milito of New York’s classic rock station Q104.3 stretched it out a little longer and anticipation started to brew. No one seemed to mind as the band finally wandered onto the stage at 7:45 and slipped comfortably into a Gregg Allman and Berry Oakley hip-shaker from 1972 called “Stand Back.” And off we went.

In his autobiography, My Cross To Bear, Gregg Allman says it takes a few nights of a run like this to get warmed up and into a groove, so tonight was poised to be hot as molasses. The pot heated up quickly as tracks like “Leave My Blues At Home,” from 1970’s Idlewood South, and the more recent “The High Cost Of Low Living” enticed the flock and built the momentum.

“Black Hearted Woman” had guitarist Warren Haynes taking the first solo before Derek Trucks slid his fingers across that fretboard with vigorous abandon. A percussional subterfuge ignited by Jaimoe, Butch Trucks and Marc Quiñones tempered the mood as a colorful stream of racy images flashed randomly on the overhead LED. The first set finished up with “One Way Out,” which found Allman in excellent voice and featured Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli, percussionist Bobby Allende and drummer Tony Leone.

After a 45-minute break, I scrambled back to my seat, a Jack & Coke in my grasp, as four figures emerged and took their places — Gregg Allman, Warren Haynes, Butch Trucks and bassist Oteil Burbridge. Allman was out front with an acoustic and the simple, elegant chords that frame “Melisa” began to flow. Haynes turned the song’s unique slide originally laid down by Dickey Betts into his very own without losing its whine and subservience. It was a defining beginning for what turned out to be arguably the best set of the entire run.

A number of special guests joined the band for the next few songs. Singer Alecia Chakour and guitarist Oz Noy came out to help with Haynes’ own “River’s Gonna Rise” from his 2011 solo album Man in Motion. Jimmy Vivino, best known as the leader of the house band on Conan O'Brien’s show, came out and delivered a stellar reading of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.” When the first few lines of the classic 1969 song came oozing out, many in the immediate area thought Eric Clapton would come on, but it was not to be.

A slamming “Statesboro Blues,” with the addition of Ricky Gordon Jr. on percussion (you can’t ever get enough percussion at an Allman Brothers show), was highlighted by a slide show featuring fallen heroes and fellow brothers Robert Johnnson, Muddy Waters, Bill Graham, Berry Oakley and Duane Allman. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house for that or “Dreams,” which assumed an ethereal, psychedelic boast from the trumpet of Maurice Brown. Meanwhile, the guitar antics between Haynes and Derek Trucks only intensified on “Jessica” and the second set came to a dramatic close.

It was down to the encore to finish New York off. Allman mumbled a few incoherencies, his Hammond started to whirl, and “Whippin’ Post” rose to gobble up the first 25 rows. The audience was drenched in ecstasy as the aisles filled with dancers, old and young. Smoke wavered overhead and the whole spectacle transformed into some sort of divine intervention charged with unrequited bliss. Haynes even teased the devoted with a slice of the Beatles' “Norwegian Wood” just to make ‘em salivate all the more. After the lights came up and we filed out of the Beacon, I heard someone remark, “That was the best ‘Whippin’ Post’ I ever saw.” I wasn’t about to argue with him or anyone else about that. As far as I was concerned, it was likely the best Allman Brothers Band show I ever saw.

 

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