The Allman Brothers Band
New York City, NY
March 17, 2011
Around this time every year, the band that defines the Southern rock genre above all others is the talk of the town in the Big Apple.
Though far from their initial base of Macon, GA, each year The Allman Brothers manage to take all who join in for their annual Beacon Theatre residency on a ride through the heartland, with jams as tasty as peach cobbler and as sweet as iced tea should be. In 2011, the annual run will culminate with the band’s 200th performance at the venue.
Though most Allman outings are spectacular, there is something special about the Beacon runs. Not only are they housed within a historically significant venue that boasts Greek decorum and superior acoustics, they also represent a celebration of a band that has spanned decades and lived to tell the tale.
Having survived untimely death, life-threatening illness and many more setbacks, the Allman Brothers have served as a taproot from which acts like The Black Crowes and Widespread Panic have sprung and flowered. This said, if the Allman outfit is short on anything, friends and admirers is definitely not one of them – Beacon runs are notorious for being a "who’s who" in regards to who will pop in, show their respect for the sound and simply share in the collective groove. This night would not disappoint.
With a lineup that has now remained fully intact since 2000 – consisting of founding members Gregg Allman on organ, piano, and vocals, Butch Trucks and Jaimoe Johanson on dual drums and percussion, and later additions Warren Haynes on guitar and vocals, Marc Quiñones on drums and percussion, Derek Trucks on guitar and slide, and the longest enduring Allman bassist to date, Oteil Burbridge – this is not an ensemble that requires additional players by anyone’s measure. But while reinforcements aren’t required, they are always welcomed.
On this night, guests for every instrument turned out with Donald Fagan of Steely Dan on keys and vocals, bassist Lincoln Schleifer of Jorma Kaukonen & Bob Dylan notoriety, Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford on guitar, Chili Pepper Chad Smith on drums, and Latin music percussionist Bobby Allende, who has played alongside David Byrne, Spyro Gyra and Hector Lavoe. Last but certainly not least was guitarist Leo Nocentelli, a founding member of the New Orleans funk forefather band, The Meters, who rounded out the cast of notables gracing the revered stage.
For most ensembles, a 13-night stand with no repeated songs would be a frightening proposal. However, for the Allman Brothers, who celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2009, digging deep and pulling out gems for each and every night is no issue.
Expectations for this run were and always are high, and Allman Brother faithful dissect chords and structures with the absolute best of the jam scene circle members. There were many in the crowd who have been participating in the Allman sound since the days of Duane. This said, it is safe to say that expectations were met, and virtually no one in the crowd took a break until the band did.
Highlighted by classic Allman Brothers’ songs like "Midnight Rider," "Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More," and the tear jerker, "No One to Run With," the evening churned with palpable energy from both the stage and the plush seats that fill the Beacon’s hall, as many pondered once again their days of being "like a gypsy out on the road." Along with the classics, they managed to work in new material that was met with resounding approval, most notably a tune from Haynes’ forthcoming Man In Motion, "River’s Gonna Rise."
Near the end of the first set, Donald Fagan lent vocal and keys accompaniment and Lincoln Schleifer made an appearance for Dylan’s "Down Along The Cove" and an amazingly grand cover of the Grateful Dead’s "Shakedown Street" that was fully owned by guitarists Haynes and Trucks.
Things got particularly interesting when Whitford and Chad Smith joined the party. The interactions between the renowned players during "The Same Thing" gave the impression that they had been performing together for years, though that is far from the case.
From opening riff to closing bow (that came after Leo Nocentelli sat in for "Southbound"), the Allman Brothers proved once again why they continue to do what few can: play for now 42 years while continuing to amaze those that witness their overture. There is nothing complicated to the formula, although to some, rocket science would be a more easily mastered domain. What The Allmans Brothers have done and continue to do is both create and play timeless music in a manner that maintains both freshness and integrity to its original composition.
The fervency that was in the house at the Beacon on a beautiful New York Thursday night was indicative that the formula not only works, but is flourishing. As 50- and 60-year-old men and women cut loose with people 30 years their junior, the staple sound proved that there are still things that endure and endear far beyond generational gaps. One can only hope that the tradition of these legends, the Allman Brothers and their celebrated Beacon run, lives on for many years to come.
You Don’t Love Me, Midnight Rider, Who to Believe, Woman Across The River, Old Before My Time, River’s Gonna Rise, Kind Of Bird, Down Along The Cove, Shakedown Street
Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More, Statesboro Blues, Desdemona, Born Under a Bad Sign, The Same Thing, No One to Run With
Click the thumbnail to view Vernon Webb’s photos fromThe Show!