By Brian Ives
It was a long show, even by jam band standards. The concert that was billed as the Allman Brothers Band‘s final performance featured three sets, two encores and even a few brief speeches by the original members; guys who generally never address the audience.
There was a real sense of occasion in the air at the Beacon Theatre last night (October 28); fans knew that an era was ending right in front of their eyes. In case you aren’t familiar with the latest chapters in the Allmans’ saga: In January, guitarist/singer Warren Haynes and guitarist Derek Trucks announced that they’d both be leaving the Allmans at the end of this year. And while founding member and namesake Gregg Allman told Radio.com that the band would continue, he soon changed his mind, and in June, the Allman Brothers Band announced their final shows, culminating in last night’s concert.
But at last night’s show, you might not have known that this was anything other than one of their hundreds of gigs at the New York venue; at least at the beginning of the night. They started with parts of the late Duane Allman’s acoustic guitar piece “Little Martha” which led into “Mountain Jam” (a song co-written by the original lineup of the band, which included Duane and Gregg, current drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe, former guitarist Dickey Betts and late bass player Berry Oakley along with Donovan Leitch). They then went into the opening two tracks from their 1969 debut album, “Don’t Want You No More” and “It’s Not My Cross To Bear.” The playing was hot, but the thing about the Allmans is, they’re always so tight, yet explosive. So it’s hard to make one show stand out.
But towards the end of the first set, that’s what started to happen, with “Blue Sky,” one of the songs written by Betts, who was unceremoniously dismissed by the other there founding members in 2000. (Some rumors had circulated that he might be invited to appear at the band’s final shows, but anyone who knows anything about him or Allman would know that was not to be. But the man was well represented at the show, with “Blue Sky,” “Revival,” “Southbound” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” making the setlist.) Warren Haynes, the guy who Betts brought into the band when they first reunited in the late ’80s, and the guy who replaced Betts in 2000, took the vocals as he has done on the song for years. But it was his guitar solos that nearly ripped the roof off of the Beacon. “You Don’t Love Me” followed, and after that was the first intermission.
They returned to the stage with one of their signature songs, their cover of Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues,” which burned. It may be sacrilegious to suggest that this version of the Allmans — which has been together since 2000 and is the longest running lineup in their history — is as good as the original. That’s a matter of opinion, but damn, do they have “Statesboro” down. After the relatively mellow “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More,” they played “Black Hearted Woman,” with Haynes firing off an explosive solo. Soon the band played “Dreams,” a song that Gregg wrote for the band’s debut, and which has gone on to be one of the band’s showcases for improvisation. Whether or not you play guitar, it’s amazing to watch Haynes and Trucks’ apparent telepathy during the extended instrumental passages in the longer songs. There’s no guitar team today that can compare. In fact, one of the very few in rock history that does compare is the Allmans’ original team of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts.